Facebook is under fire for drawing up terms and conditions so confusing that few people can understand what they’re actually agreeing to when they sign up to the social network.

Whatever you think of the service, with 1.35 billion active users (about the same as the population of China), that means a lot of people are making friends and uploading photos without the faintest idea about what Facebook is doing with the data.

To its credit, Facebook recently announced it will be updating its policies in the New Year to clarify what its responsibilities are with respect to its users’ private data. It has also published a new Privacy Basics guide to explain how you can regain control of your account’s privacy settings.

If you’ve never reviewed your Facebook privacy settings, there’s a distinct possibility that you’re sharing things on your timeline with complete strangers.

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What is the Facebook Privacy Basics guide?

The Facebook Privacy Basics guide is an interactive tutorial that shows you such things as how to control who can see what you post and ‘like’, what happens when someone tags you in a photo and how to change what you see on your timeline.

If you are a Facebook user, it’s well worth spending some time reading it.

You can also discover how to organise your friends into groups so that you can share different things with family, friends and work colleagues, for instance - useful for separating posts about your private life away from people you work with.

The guide also explains how to control the kinds of adverts you see while using Facebook.

It’s a comprehensive collection of guides that will take some time to work through if you’re new to Facebook. Our only complaint is that they all demonstrate how to change your settings using the Facebook smartphone app, which is slightly different in terms of menus and options to the Facebook web site.

Here’s a quick guide for how to make some basic changes to tighten up your Facebook account privacy settings:

 

Step 1: Sign into your account

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Go to www.facebook.com/settings and sign into your account, if prompted.

Click the downward arrow on the far right and scroll down to Settings.

 

Step 2: Open the privacy settings

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Look down the left of the page and click the Privacy option. 

 

Step 3: Control who sees your posts

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To avoid posting things to your timeline you don’t want certain people to see, head to the Who can see my stuff? Section, click Edit next to Who can see your future posts?

The top box shows your current selection, to change this, click the drop-down arrow, select More Options and Only Me. All new timeline posts will now be private by default, but you can change who sees them on a post-by-post basis on the timeline itself.

 

Step 4: Stop your profile from being searched

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Click Privacy again and this time look under the Who can look me up? Section.

Here you can check who you want to be able to find you on Facebook using your email address or phone number (if you provided one). Choosing Friends for both is the most private option.

Whatever you choose, it’s definitely worth changing the Do you want other search engines to link to your Timeline? option to No to prevent anything you post appearing if someone searches for your name on Google or another search site.

 

Step 5: Keep certain posts that mention you off your timeline

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Click the Timeline and Tagging option on the left of the page. Setting the Review posts that friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline? option to On means you must approve posts by your friends that mention you before they can appear on your timeline.

This means you can prevent your entire timeline seeing a photo of you in one of your friends’ posts, for example – mutual friends would see your picture, however.

 

Step 6: Lock your timeline

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The second section down in Timeline and Tagging Settings ‘Who can see things on my timeline’ lets you stop unwanted people from seeing your timeline.

Who can see posts you've been tagged in on your timeline? and Who can see what others post on your timeline? give you fine control over who sees what.

If you organised your Facebook friends into groups, you can prevent colleagues from seeing posts on your timeline intended for your family, for example.