Understanding Facebook Privacy When Commenting On Friends’ Stuff

November 28, 2012 · 22 comments

in Facebook

Understanding Facebook Privacy When Commenting On Friends’ Stuff

Is My Privacy Protected? 

Facebook Post privacy is one of the most asked about questions here on Just-Ask-Kim.com 

I have a super useful post that covers how to control which of your posts are seen by your friends and family

This however, raised a really important question by an insightful reader named Jodi: 

“So here’s my question…right now, I’m posting with a “custom” setting as I’m “hiding” stuff from my family. If a friend of mine (not theirs) posts something, and I make a comment, will my family (the ones that are restricted from seeing my posts) be able to see that comment in their ticker? Also, will they be able to see things that are posted on MY wall?”

Great question Jodi…  

The privacy setting that is “in play” is always the one that belongs to the owner of the profile it is posted on.

So if you (yourself) post on your own profile (or at the top of your newsfeed, which is the same thing), your custom privacy settings work as you would expect.

If John makes a post on his profile or in his newsfeed, that you see, his own custom filter is in play (or public filter if that’s his choice). You can hover over the icon near the top of the message to see. So if you comment on it, and it’s public or “friends of friends), there’s a chance it could be seen by the people you are hiding content from, yes.


If John comes over to visit you and writes a message on your profile (like happy birthday), then because it’s on your profile, your settings are the governing rule.

Now, lets assume that when John made his post, on his own profile/feed, that he used the “Friends of Friends” filter (or public). When you comment on that, all of your friends will see a little blurb about you leaving a comment somewhere, in their right hand ticker.

If however, he uses the “Friends” (which means friends-only) or any custom list within allow, then when you comment, no one but his own friends will be able to see that you have commented (or the original post in general). Keep in mind that if John is friends (directly) with the individuals you are hiding from, that this can still grant them visibility. 

Are there any special noteworthy exceptions? Yes… the case of tags.

In the image above, we see that Joanna has tagged Nancy in a text/name tag. This causes the privacy of the status to be the original privacy option (Joanna’s friends) PLUS the friends of the person tagged! 

So, above we see Joanna’s friends (because the “Friends” privacy option was what Joanna was using) AND Nancy’s friends (because Nancy was tagged). 

Tagging is some very powerful stuff and we need to use the tag-approval option to keep unsavory tagged items from displaying on our profile. That option however does NOT prevent our friends from seeing them. To control who can see posts you’re tagged in, there is a second security feature for that.

The act of friending someone  *is* the act of giving them the right to tag you  – and so you have to think long and hard about whether THEM having the ability to show some stuff to your friends is a power you want them to have (before you click “accept” on that friend request). 

In summary – the privacy status of an item is always controlled by the individual who’s wall it is on – except in the case of tagging which can cause a broader (combined) privacy option to be used.

Hope that helps!

~ Kim ~
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna Merrill November 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Aha…So that’s where those nasty “friends” of “friends” are coming from. So annoying, but now I can understand it.
As I’m cleaning up Facebok -once again- this week, this article comes in handy.
This is very useful Kim because I’m trimming down things on all social sites at this time. Now I know what those little icons mean too.
Thanks for the tips an be well!
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Jens P. Berget November 29, 2012 at 7:02 am

I have been asking myself this question for a long time Kim, and I have even searched for the answer without finding the information. You did a great job explaining it. And it seems that most of my Norwegian friends are not using the privacy settings, so every time I comment on something they’ve published, all my friends will see it :)


Carolyn November 29, 2012 at 8:18 am

Great explanation, Kim. Everyone should assume that whatever they post on the Internet can become public. Too many stories exist of people posting things they don’t want others to see but inevitably those posts become news fodder.
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Paul Lee November 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

Interesting how “privacy” works on Facebook. Thanks for helping me understand their definition. It certainly helps when it comes to me alining my meaning of the word with theirs.
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Kim Castleberry December 3, 2012 at 2:30 am

I agree Paul. It is sometimes fascinating to see that sites that are most likely to be trouble get away with being able to define the thing that we worry about them messing up. Sometimes it’s really risky business!


marquita herald November 29, 2012 at 11:36 am

Gotta tell you, I have never been happier that for some bizaar reason (considering what I do for a living) my world of family and friends is populated by technophobes. Seriously, none of my close friends or family FB or Tweet or anything like that. It took me half a lifetime just to get my sister to use email!
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Roz Bennetts November 29, 2012 at 11:38 am

Hi Kim,

All of that made sense and was what I sort of knew anyway – except I didn’t know how powerful tagging someone was and that my post automatically gets shown to all the friends of the tagged person; that was a revelation.


Leslie Denning November 30, 2012 at 10:03 am

Hi Kim. My life is pretty much an open book, so I don’t worry too much about privacy settings on Facebook. However, this is great information to have tucked away. I know I can always count on your blog to help me with technical issues that I have with Facebook or WordPress. Thanks for being such a resource to us non-techies!

All the best,
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Alan Jenkin November 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Thanks for explaining this, Kim.

I generally try not to post anything I don’t want some people to read, but I can see how “tagging” can raise issues. I have been tagged in the past with some posts that I would certainly not have chosen, and when that happens I remove the tag. If it happens more than once from the same person, I unfriend that person.

I’m trusting that this protects me from unwelcome posts, but I can see how it might still cause issues.

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Rick Lelchuk November 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm


I’m like Leslie and Alan about what I post online. There isn’t anything that I need to hide from anyone. If I do need to say something that could be questionable it goes privately.

It’s funny that many people don’t consider the consequences of their posts and actions on the Internet. The Internet has a very, very long memory.

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Melanie Young November 30, 2012 at 6:32 pm

These are very handy features. Good for planning surprise parties for people. Unfortunately too many people I know don’t pay attention enough to use these options when deciding to use their log in on pages that have “questionable” content. You can’t unsee something once you laid eyes on it. Ick.
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Robert Koenig November 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm

These are important features to learn because your personal facebook account is a reference guide for potential employers or business partners. Some posts could make you look like a rock star, but others could cost your reputation.


Philip A December 1, 2012 at 6:40 am

Hey Kim,

I’ve had this concern with my Facebook profile, but I managed to configure my privacy settings eventually.

I want my posts only to be shared with some of my friends who are interested in my topic, and my personal info only with close friends and family.

I didn’t knew how to do this at first but you just need to look around and you can configure it anyway you want.

Thanks for sharing this info, enjoy your weekend Kim.

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Kevin Martineau December 1, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Hi Kim:

Thanks for this informative post! I am like many others who have already commented and I don’t post anything online that I wouldn’t mind anyone seeing. This helps me choose carefully what I post.



Willena Flewelling December 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Like many others who have commented here, I am pretty careful about what I post on FB or my blog or anywhere on the internet. I’m more thankful than ever that I am not an outspoken person by nature, because what I am passionate about today could change in the future. Who wants to try recalling things said in anger or passion a year or two ago?!!
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Ron December 3, 2012 at 11:38 am

It is amazing how complicated something that should be so simple can get. Still in reading your post I am a bit confused, will have to read it a couple of times to get the friends of friends blah blah to make sense. I have my setting as friends only. I don’t want everyone and their friends to see what I am writing because it’s no ones business but who I want to see it. Then again, they say NEVER put into print what you don’t want found out…so in the case of the original question, if it is that big of a secret I would NOT put it on a public forum. This is of course just my opinion. Thanks for the detailed explanation though!


Jenny December 4, 2012 at 4:21 pm

This why here in Philippines a TV network has a campaign that says “Think, before you click”. We don’t know who sees all of our comments, that we may offend someone.


Dr. Erica Goodstone December 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm

That really explained the privacy issue well. I was dealng with different privacy issues today, YouTube and Optimize Press. It is different in each social media tool. On Facebook, I don’t restrict anyone but I cringe when someone tags me in a photo they took in which I hate the way I look. Sometimes I will later hide the post from my timeline or even delete it, but it is usually too late. Many people have already seen it. So the bottom line is to let yourself be transparent online.


Dr. Erica


Kristine December 8, 2012 at 3:43 am

Thanks for this clarification. Although it’s best to be cautious when it comes to leaving comments and making sensitive remarks, it would still be best to adjust our privacy settings appropriately instead. Merry Christmas!


Emilia December 9, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Finally! Someone who explained this concept clearly. Thank you for this, I’m having a hard time teaching my dad about Facebook and he could definitely use this. I’m going to post this on his wall right now! Thank you!


Calra December 10, 2012 at 2:02 am

I am definitely showing my mom your post. I have a hard time explaining things to her but you surely did a spectacular job on it. Hopefully she’ll get it and stop annoying me. Thank you for this!


Stacey December 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Good job in posting sufficient explanation about the privacy in facebook. In this way, people can manage their own way of posting status and comments. Kudos! I believe people should start to be responsible in using such a social networking site. Our personal privacy is our own responsibility, after all. Thank you so much for sharing!


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