How to Manage Your Privacy Settings on Social Media

Quick Answer

Your social media accounts’ privacy settings can limit who can see information about you from your profile and posts. Periodically review your settings to make sure you’re not sharing more than you intend to.

A teenage girl lies on the bed in her room lightened with orange and teal neon lights and updates her social media privacy settings on her mobile phone.

There are many reasons to keep your social media activity private. Perhaps you only want to share your thoughts and pictures with people who you connected with previously. Or, you might want to use stricter privacy settings to keep burglars, stalkers, cybercriminals and others from learning more about you and your whereabouts.

The specific options and settings will vary from one platform to another, but here are nine general tips for managing your social media privacy settings. These can be a good starting point for staying safe and protecting your privacy on social media.

1. Review Your Current Privacy Settings

First, you'll want to log into your accounts to review your current privacy settings. The National Cybersecurity Alliance has a list of links to the privacy settings pages for popular services and apps, including for email, health, dating, food delivery, mobile banking, e-commerce platforms and social media sites.

2. Check Who Can See Your Posts

One important setting you'll want to review is who can see your posts or other types of interactions (likes, shares, etc.) on the platform, and whether those posts are visible in the search results. Generally, you can choose between public or private settings, and some platforms let you make more nuanced choices.

3. Check What Others See on Your Profile

Additionally, review what information people who you aren't connected to can see when they visit your profile. Even if your profile is set to private, you may want to further review what information gets shared with strangers when they wind up on your page—such as your location, employer and list of connections. You may also be able to limit who can send you connection requests and how people can find you online.

4. Update Your Friend List

If you're limiting who can see your posts and profile, you might also want to take a few minutes to review who you've connected with on each platform. When your "friends" aren't people you've actually met or know, it might make sense to unfriend them so they won't be able to see what you share. Facebook also has a custom audience option, which lets you create lists of people and then share posts exclusively with that group.

5. Restrict Access From Third-Party Apps

You might have used a social media profile to log into a different account, or given another company limited access to your profile when entering a contest or playing a game. Linking third-party apps to your social media profiles can be helpful at times, but you may also want to review the current connections and revoke access to apps you no longer use.

6. Scrutinize Your Location-Sharing Settings

Social media platforms might also collect information about where you are and use this to target ads and other suggestions. In some cases, you might also be able to add location data to your posts. If you'd prefer not to share this information with the platform or others, look into how you can restrict location sharing. You may need to do this by updating the location sharing settings on your phone or in the social media site's mobile app rather than the website.

7. Consider What's in Your Profile and What You Share

You may also want to review what you include in your profile and either delete or add fake information. For example, listing your high school might help you connect with old friends, but it also makes it fairly easy for someone to figure out who your high school mascot was—which could be a "secret" answer that allows them to access or reset the password on one of your other accounts. Similarly, be cautious about what you share, both in your posts and in response to other people's posts or trivia games.

8. Add a Calendar Reminder to Review Your Settings Again

Companies may periodically update their privacy settings, which makes managing your privacy settings more of an ongoing responsibility than a one-and-done task. Your preferences may also change over time, and you want to make sure your privacy settings reflect that. A calendar invite to yourself to check in every six months or year could help you establish a good routine.

9. Read Each Site's Privacy Policy

The privacy settings you choose can limit who can access your profile and see your posts, but the company that runs the service might still be able to see everything. Plus, it might collect additional information about you and how you use the service. You can review the social media platform's privacy policy to better understand what the company collects and how it uses your information.

The Bottom Line

Reviewing your social media accounts' privacy settings can be an important part of keeping your private information secure. But there are also other things you can do to limit what others can learn about you online and protect yourself from bad actors. You can use a free personal privacy scan and dark web scan to see what information other people can learn about you without turning to social media.

Learn More About Staying Safe Online