When I got to work this morning and booted up my computer I was greeted by a frantic message from my sister. She asked if I knew that she could see everyone who I had put on my Facebook's Limited Profile list.
At first I wondered if it was a glitch, so I logged out of my account and logged back in. Then I signed onto my sister's account so I could view my profile from someone else's perspective, and, in fact, out there for everyone to see was the list of people I blacklisted from viewing the entirety of my Facebook profile: college friends I no longer talk to, family members, coworkers (sorry, guys).
So I panicked a bit, wondering how long I had unknowingly made this information public and who might have seen my list.
[Want more tips, tricks and details on Facebook privacy? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Bible.]
Then tried a number of other things: I Googled a string of related words to see if there was a reported glitch in today's news (which there wasn't). I poured through my privacy settings to make sure everything was in check (it was). I viewed a handful of my friends' Facebook profiles to see if I could view their Limited Profile list (I couldn't). And I e-mailed a few of my contacts at Facebook to enquire about a glitch (they were likely still asleep).
Through all this, I somehow landed on a page with a setting that let me remove the Limited Profile list from my profile. Here's how to do it:
1. On your profile page, click "Edit Profile," which is at the end of your bio that lists your network, relationship status, hometown, birthday, etc.
2. On the navigation list on the left, select "Featured People."
3. At the bottom is a section called "Featured Friends." In this list are the groups that you've (apparently) made public. In my case, I had three lists under here: Friends, Family and Limited Profile.
To remove a list other than Friends or Family (which you're not allowed to remove), hover above the list and click the X to delete it. You're not deleting the list itself, just removing it from view.
I don't ever remember consciously adding that list to my profile-in fact, I know I would have never willingly done so. I was well aware that the list was on my profile, though I thought it was only visible to me, much like the various edit buttons and "People You May Know" boxes on my profile are. I made the mistake of assuming it was a personalized navigation mechanism-a way for me to browse my various friend lists. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
It took me-someone who writes about Facebook weekly and has covered the beat for a while now-about an hour to figure out how to remove that feature from my profile. I can't imagine how tedious and frustrating a process it must be for the average user.
To its credit, Facebook has done a better job at making people aware of their privacy options, but it still has a long way to go. As Facebook grows and new features are added, it's becoming more and more difficult to keep up with what you need to do to protect yourself and your information. There needs to be an easier way.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com
This story, "Are You Exposing Your Private Facebook Lists?" was originally published by CIO.