New Facebook Privacy Problem: How strangers can see your photos

by Angelique on September 17, 2012

display of michigan state and university of michigan paper plates at costcoI’m visiting my family in Michigan, and the other day I went shopping with my father. When I came across the display you see to your left, I had to take a picture and post it to Facebook. The caption read, “When traveling in a foreign land, you should always check out the local shops. Today I’m in the Bloomfield Hills Costco. Notice that the Michigan State plates are more popular than those from UM.” Before posting the photo, I tagged three Spartan friends.

Within a few minutes, I had three comments, but they weren’t from my friends! Three complete strangers had commented on my photo! What was going on? I checked the privacy setting for the photo; it was set for “friends only.” Then I checked my global privacy settings. They were also set to “friends only….” but wait!

There was a catch!

I’m not sure when this option first appeared, but Facebook now has an option to allow the friends of people you tag in an image to see that image.

And that option’s default is ON.

Here’s what it looks like, and here’s how to turn it off. Click any image to see a larger version in a new browser window.

Step One: Go to your privacy settings. You’ll find them in the drop-down box at the upper-right of your screen.

Facebook privacy settings graphic showing the dropdown box by Angelique of A.F.MarCom


Step Two: Look at your “default privacy” controls. You’ve probably chosen “friends”; you may created custom privacy settings. Double-click on whichever option you’ve chosen.

Facebook privacy setting graphic showing the "friends" option by Angelique of A.F.MarCom


Step Three: See the “friends of those tagged” box? See how Facebook has “helpfully” check it for you? Uncheck it!

Facebook privacy settings graphic showing the checkbox that allows friends of the people you tag to see your photo by Angelique of A.F.MarCom


Facebook privacy graphic showing the unchecked "friends of tagged people" box by Angelique of A.F.Marcom


Then I deleted the comments made by the strangers, who presumably can no longer see the photo. I know that they’re probably perfectly nice people, but they’re complete strangers to me, and I never intended for them to see my photos and captions.

Check your Facebook privacy settings now! Have you been sharing your photos with strangers? Have you decided that it’s okay for friends of friends you tag to see those photos? Let us know in the comments!


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Casey E. Palmer September 17, 2012 at 5:29 am

It makes me wonder what I’ll do when I have kids. At the moment, I’m pretty open with my Facebook — largely because a ton of what I post is humourous content from the Internet-wide. If I started getting way more personal… yeah. I think I’d probably tweak my settings some. Good lesson :)


Tyson A April 15, 2013 at 4:51 am

Thank you very much for this post. I was as shocked as you when my “Friends only” photo suddenly let “Friends of tagged friends” see my photo. I was not happy about this and looked for over an hour to find a solution on how to change the default for future posts.

Thank you!


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