Control who can view your Facebook photos

Facebook's custom privacy settings let you share photos with only the people you specify rather than with everyone or all your friends. The free Fotobounce service offers even more photo-sharing options.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
4 min read

One of Facebook's best features is sharing photos with family and friends. But indiscriminate sharing of personal photos can be dangerous. Facebook encourages its users to share with everyone, and most of the service's default settings make the information you share available to anyone who stumbles upon your profile.

To manage who can access your Facebook account, click Account in the top-right corner and choose Privacy Settings to view your current settings for sharing in nine categories. The option to let friends of people tagged in your photos view the images is selected by default.

Facebook privacy settings
By default, Facebook allows friends of people tagged in your photos to view the images. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly

It may be that you don't mind people you don't know seeing your images. If you would prefer to limit access to your photos, uncheck this option. To see more access options, click "Customize settings" to fine-tune your Facebook sharing.

On the Customize Settings page, select "Edit privacy settings for existing photos albums and videos" at the end of the "Things I share" options to open a page listing your current albums and videos. Choose Customize in the drop-down menu under an entry to view more share options. These include the ability to limit access to specific people and to hide the album or video from the people you specify.

Facebook photo album and video sharing settings
Facebook lets you determine who can view your albums and videos, and who is prevented from accessing them. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly

Under "Things others share" on the custom privacy-settings screen are options for limiting the people who can view photos and videos you're tagged in. You can also disable Facebook's facial-recognition feature that identifies you in photos other people post and automatically suggests that they tag you.

Click the Edit Settings button and choose Customize in the drop-down menu that appears to access the same specify/hide options described above for your own photo albums and videos. Facebook's Controlling How You Share page goes into more detail on the options for sharing your information on the service.

Photo-sharing alternatives abound
People were sharing photos and videos on the Web long before Facebook arrived on the scene. The granddaddy of photo-sharing services is Flickr, which works with Facebook, Twitter, and many blogging services, as well as mobile devices and image-editing apps. Flickr partners with the Picnik image-editing service and with Snapfish for printing your images.

Another option is Google's free Picasa image-editing program that offers facial recognition for tagging people in photos and automatically shares images with people in your Google+ circles when they're tagged in them.

Flickr, Picasa, and most other photo-sharing services let you keep your images private. You can set Flickr to upload public images to your Facebook account automatically, as well as to your Yahoo Updates account. Likewise, a Picasa plug-in adds a button to the program for uploading images to Facebook.

A safer alternative is the Fotobounce photo-sharing program that lets you share photos without uploading them to the Web. Like many other photo services, Fotobounce uses facial recognition to facilitate tagging images. The program also makes it easy to add the photos to social networks--complete with their tags--and to view images in your accounts on those sites.

The free version of Fotobounce is available for Windows and Mac; I tested the Windows version. For $49 you get a version of the program without ads.

The images you import to Fotobounce are grouped automatically by date. After you use the program's face recognizer to identify the people in the photos, you can sort pictures by person as well. Or create albums to organize images by event, place, keyword, or collection.

Fotobounce image-sharing application
The Fotobounce program automatically organizes your pictures by date, by person (using the app's facial recognizer), or by whatever category you choose. screenshot by Dennis O'Reilly

Fotobounce lets you view your albums in your Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr account from inside the application. After you sign in to the services and grant Fotobounce permission to access your accounts, shortcuts to the albums appear in Fotobounce's left pane. Click an album to view it in Fotobounce. You can also view your friends' Facebook photos as well as your Likes and Facebook pages.

After you import your photos, you can share them by creating a private peer-to-peer network of "bouncers." You create a network by providing and confirming your e-mail address, and then adding the recipients' addresses or importing them from a Google or Yahoo account. Unfortunately, the bouncers you share with must have the Fotobounce app on their PCs.

Even if you don't use Fotobounce's sharing features, the program makes it much easier to find, organize, and manage the images on your PC. The Fotobounce Viewer app lets you view (but not manage) your images remotely from an Android device or any Windows, Mac, or Linux machine; the company promises to release a version for Apple devices and Blackberry Playbooks "soon."

Fotobounce's close ties to social networks help you integrate and manage all your photos in a single place. And the program's "private" sharing gives you more control over who can view your personal photos. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it, too?