By February 3, 2009

How to: Group privacy settings on Facebook via the friends list tutorial

I really like Facebook. I have reconnected with old friends, and stay in touch with current ones. My local comic book shop has a group on Facebook, and one of my friends sends out invitations for various store events. Facebook is a good time.

However, there came a point where I had several sets of friends. Some of my friends are very close to me and with whom I have no barriers or filters. I don’t mind if they see any of my data on Facebook. There’s a larger subset of friends I don’t see as much, or “super-acquaintances” whom I like I lot but aren’t fully integrated into my life. Then there’s a smaller set of people whom I don’t want to know everything about me. Most of those people are from work (I now work in a really corporate, stodgy environment), but there are some friends-of-friends or way old timers that I didn’t really want having my phone number or whatever.

I had no idea how to keep these people separate, so I just omitted a lot of information, like this blog address, or my AIM screen name, etc. That is, until I read the EXTREMELY excellent 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know article by Nick O’Neill. The first thing I did was set up a Friends List on Facebook for all of my co-workers, and then I shut off their access to most of my profile.

Here’s how you can make a friends list of your own, and how to secure parts of your profile from that list.

Step 1: Make the friends list

  1. Sign into Facebook.
  2. Click on the Friends link in the top navigation.
  3. Click the “Make a New List” button on the left hand side of the screen:
  4. Give your list a name (mine is called “Work,” I typed in “Gibberish” just as an example):
  5. Add people to the list by typing in their name. You’ll build a list of them like this:

Step 2: Restrict access to the list

  1. Go to your Privacy Settings, found in the Settings menu in the top navigation:
  2. Click the Profile option:
  3. Restrict access to your profile, area by area. Select Customize from the dropdown menu under each area.
  4. The top options allow coarse-grain access to each area. I have all of mine set to “Only Friends” to begin with, so anonymous people can’t see my profile. Furthermore, I added the “Work” friend list to the “Except These People” list. This is the important part that keeps people in your friend list from seeing your phone number, Web site address, etc.:

  5. Click “Okay.”
  6. Continue with your Contact Information, found on a tab to the right of the “Basic” tab.

Step 3: Test your settings
It took me awhile to get everything the way that I wanted it, so this functionality is both AWESOME and EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Look for the phrase “See how a friend sees your profile” and type in the name of someone on your new friend list. I entered the name of a particularly annoying co-worker who kept asking to be my friend because I am friends with the rest of his team. I don’t really care about him or his ice-skating children; I just added him to get the invites to stop.

I restrict access to the following parts of my profile from my co-workers:

  • My status updates.
  • Photos and videos that include me, with two album exceptions. Note that you cannot hide your profile pictures.
  • Posts by my friends on my wall.
  • My phone number, blog address, and AIM name.
  • My relationship status.
  • My religious and political beliefs.

You can further restrict things, but I felt that this was enough for now.

I am very happy to have found the friend list capability on Facebook. The Facebook privacy article by Nick O’Neill was instrumental in this, and a little trial and error went a long way. I hope my notes and screen shots are helpful if you decide to make a friend list of your own.

Posted in: gibberish

31 Comments on "How to: Group privacy settings on Facebook via the friends list tutorial"

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  1. erin clare says:

    Okay–I’m sorry, but I have to chime in here. Doc, I’ve known you for many years…so I know you won’t take what I’m about to type as a direct offense.

    I confess—I LOATHE FACEBOOK. I can’t think of anything more annoying than having YET ANOTHER digital environment to groom my security as a human. I have tested and bailed out on many social media over the years, Facebook included. What is the stickiness that I’m missing?? Honestly, I don’t care if Sally is about to fix a tuna sandwich. Chances are, if you don’t know me on AIM or cell or email, it’s because “I’m just not that into you…”. Gentle blogging (god that sounds dirty…like heavy petting or something)and commenting is about as close as I get to showing blind support and humanity.

    I know I’ve offended just about everyone in first and second-world countries that can afford basic dial up, and I apologize. But it really is the venue of digital drama, digital stalking, and digital WHOGIVESASHIT.

    Okay…ending rant now. Stepping down off of soap box. Pulse slowing. Calm coming over me…

    the end.

    P.S. Social media sucks. GOOD NIGHT, MILWAUKEE!!!

  2. Ed says:

    Great Rant Erin. I actually kind of like Facebook and similar because it allows me a quick way to say hello to old friends that I might not have the time/ability to reach other wise.

    Heh, first thing I did when I read this was sign into Facebook (first time ain a long time), and check if Doc gave me full access (yay!). Than I attached a few walls, woo ho.

  3. Tommy says:

    Thanks for this. I don’t really use facebook for much more than announcing gaming events but now that I can block access to the annoying people I knew in High School I might use it for more than that.

    Oh who am I kidding. I’m far too lazy to fool with it.

  4. chris says:

    when you create these groups, it seems people can see the names of the groups, so a friend who is in the group “peopleIwishINeverAddedAsFacebookFriends” can see that they are in that group! so name carefully. or let me know how to hide the fact that I have groups and their names.

  5. karen says:

    hi, this would be great, IF IT ACTUALLY WORKED.

    unfortunately, you can set up privacy settings so people can’t see what’s on your wall, but they can still see what’s on your wall. yes, that sentence doesn’t make sense…that’s my point.

    whether you use a friends list or a limited profile or whatever you choose to call it, it does NOT keep someone from viewing your wall posts.

    i’ve followed the directions to the letter on this (and other) site(s) and it doesn’t work. if you use facebook’s ‘see as a friend sees your profile’ mode, you’ll still see your wall posts. if you have a trusted friend check (i’ve used my husband’s account as a guinea pig, blocking him from various wall posts or photos) you’ll see the same posts.

    verbatim from facebook’s help section:

    My privacy settings restrict somebody from seeing my Wall posts, but the Wall still displays when I view my account as that person.
    When you restrict someone from seeing your Wall posts, they will still be able to see posts that you make, comments on those posts, and Recent Activity stories that appear on your Wall.

  6. drfaulken says:

    Hi Karen,

    I am sorry you are having problems.

    It does work. Sort of. People can’t see my Wall posts, but can see pictures I post VIA MY WALL. Here is my page, logged in as me:

    and here is the view from a friend put in the “Work” group, which cannot see my Wall posts:

    Now … as you can see, this person clearly cannot see my most current Wall post (or a lot of my posts, actually) so yes it does work.

    What you can also see is a picture I posted, via my wall, from 09/12/2009. That’s … totally stupid on Facebook’s part. If I were to add the same photo via the “Photos” link they wouldn’t see it.

    It’s a weird mixed security model, but there you have it. Yes it does work, but not as completely as we’d expect.

    Also not surprising the Facebook help information is inaccurate. Sad 🙁

  7. mario says:

    The Friends list privacy thing is great. However, is it possible to keep activity from one group of friends from being seen by another group of friends on another list? For example, I want tagged photos of me that are tagged by friends of one list to only be seen by the friends on that list, while other tagged photos of me from friends in another list will only be seen by friends on that list. Can this be done?

  8. lish says:

    hi.. mine doesn’t work as i expected it to.. i tried it and she can’t see my wall just because i changed the privacy setting “posts by me” and excluded her.

  9. drfaulken says:

    Hi Lish — as of the latest Facebook privacy settings change I don’t know how much of this guide is still applicable.

    I couldn’t tell from your post what you were trying to do. If you provide some more details I’ll do my best to help.

  10. ajoop irup says:


    i hate the new fb settings – i dont want my friends to see my friends list – can someone please guide me on how i can do that…i just cant seem to find the options since the new fb settings were launched


  11. Michelle says:

    Is there a way to block people not your friends from seeing your friends list at all?

  12. ana says:

    I’d like to know how to extend FB privacy rules to ‘groups’ i’ve joined like my HS group, or a networking group…

  13. Joe says:

    How does one edit simply the pages one is a fan of> such as removing fan membership to a page>? is there a simple way to do this? I have searched both the web and FB Help ( what a JOKE that is) and sent requests to FB for assistance, but hmm no replies, go figure.


  14. MaryEllen says:

    To block people from seeing your friends, click on the picture of a pencil on the top right of your friends box.

  15. MD says:


    I just want to know how to block my co-workers from seeing my games application posts ?

    this is very important to me specially when am playing at work in the idle time lol 😀

  16. DrFaulken says:

    Hi MD,

    Try going to Account > Privacy Settings > Applications and Websites and then adjusting the “Activity on Applications and Games Dashboards” setting to exclude your co-workers group.

    This assumes you already have a group on Facebook for your co-workers. 🙂

    I haven’t tried exactly what you’re doing, so make sure you check your settings by impersonating one of your co-workers on Facebook. You can do this by going to

    Account > Privacy Settings > Personal Information and Posts > Preview My Profile button in the top right corner.

  17. Lynne says:

    Strangely, the activity on apps and games used to work–I had created lists for friends that played games (of which my husband is one) and verified that they could not see posts that came from games. This was right after the new privacy settings (whenever that was). Now, it mysteriously has stopped working. All game posts are viewable by all of my friends–even using the preview as the person option–when previously it had worked.
    I’m disgusted! Facebook seems to think people who play games are either okay with blasting their friends with the posts or that we’re okay with modifying the view settings FOR EACH POST! It never sames them, even if you say save them.

  18. Jordan says:

    Setting the privacy settings correctly on Facebook is vital. I hate the thought of other people are able to grab my info.

  19. Isma Pervaiz says:

    I wanted to ask when you create a list of people for organization purposes how many people are allowed in that List. Like i have an example if i have a list sayin “School Not Close” how many people am i allowed to add because i noticed that when i keep added some get kicked out whats up with that

  20. DrFaulken says:

    Hi Isma,

    I don’t know if there is a limit to the number of friends you may have on a list — how many do you have right now?

  21. Isma Pervaiz says:

    It kept kicking people out when i kept adding them like around 120 or so, but there are more i want to add to it but i couldn’t lol weird i added making a a-m and n-z listing

  22. Lucija says:

    I want to limit access to my profile pictures to all of my friends, so they can see it, but not be able to open it…Do I have to make a list that contains all of my friends to make it happen or is there an option like this that already exists?
    Please, help me 🙂

    P.S. If I have to make a list, how can I mark them all? Sorry for my grammar, I’m foreign…

  23. Peter says:

    Is still working that feature that allows you to set privacy by list of friends? I cannot do it, please help. Thanks

  24. Chris K says:


    I was able to create two new Friends lists following these instructions about a week ago. However, the “make a new list” link on the Friends page has now completely disappeared! Here’s a screenshot of what I see.

    Any ideas what’s going on here?

  25. Avnish Madan says:

    OK, So all the articles I’ve found so far allow me to limit access to profile by Friend List. What I’m looking for is a way to allow certain Friend Lists access to certain content I post: Examples:

    1. I post a photo album of a friend’s bachelors’ party. I want my “College friends” and “Family” lists to be able to see it, but I do not want my “Coworkers” list to be able to see that.

    2. A friends puts a post on my wall regarding an old incident from college, and a few of us start commenting on it. I don’t want my “Family” list to be able to see this. In fact, I want only “College Friends” to be able to see this and no one else.

    What I’m looking for is privacy at the level of content I post, or content posted about me (i’m tagged in) and not at the profile level

  26. help says:

    thanks for all this. I dont know if you can help with a bit of a facebook problem I have, my partner has a facebook group and he made it as an open group. It has been very successful except for his ex. She is not a member of the group but can see everything on it, presumably because it is open. Is there a way we can make it open except for her?y Thanks very much

  27. frank says:

    If i deny some of my friends access to my wall,can i still see their wall postings even though they cannot see mine?

  28. someone like me says:

    How do i add a ‘facebook group’ to a list?
    For example:

  29. Lesley says:

    I created a group on facebook and i don’t want my facebook friends to see what me and my friends post in the group. How do i do that?

  30. Gio says:

    How do I make a default friends list so that its level is the most strict as a default list. For instance, I add a new friend, and that new friend should go to a “default” list so that I can later choose if that person is limited to my profile or has all access to my profile (based on my other lists I created). When I add the person, I dont want them to say see all my photos and wall and everything (I have a group list for this) so I want them to belong to that list first then I can change it to more appropriate list if ever they deserve it.


  31. DrFaulken says:

    Gio, you have the same procedure I do — new friends kind of go on “probation” for awhile before they see everything my “regular” friends do, including my pictures, interests, etc.

    However, I just manually put all new friends in my “probation” list instead of locking down my normal view.

    In your case, you could change all of your default permissions to Custom > Make This Visible > Specific People > and then add your lists.

    Is that what you were trying to do?