Why can’t I hide my list of Facebook friends?

By Felix Salmon
December 10, 2009
published a list of my facebook friends, along with those of other critics of the site like Barry Ritholtz, Dan Colarusso, Dave Kansas, David Einhorn, Eric Savitz, Henry Blodget, Jeff Matthews, Joe Nocera, Joe Weisenthal, John Carney, John Hempton, Paul Kedrosky, and Sam Antar.

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The sleazy anti-shorting crowd at Deep Capture has published a list of my facebook friends, along with those of other critics of the site like Barry Ritholtz, Dan Colarusso, Dave Kansas, David Einhorn, Eric Savitz, Henry Blodget, Jeff Matthews, Joe Nocera, Joe Weisenthal, John Carney, John Hempton, Paul Kedrosky, and Sam Antar.

First, I’d like to apologize to the friends whose names were published. But it’s not my fault, it’s Facebook’s. Here’s their privacy policy:

Certain categories of information such as your name, profile photo, list of friends and pages you are a fan of, gender, geographic region, and networks you belong to are considered publicly available to everyone, including Facebook-enhanced applications, and therefore do not have privacy settings.

I’m a semi-public figure, and although I might not be happy with this kind of cyberstalking, I know I’ve put myself out there and that there will be consequences of that. But that decision of mine shouldn’t have some kind of transitive property which feeds through to my personal friends, and I don’t want the list of their names to be publicly available to everyone.

There’s one thing I can do which makes retrieving this list a bit harder: I can restrict the list of people who see my name in search results when they’re searching for me. But the whole point of having a Facebook page is so that old friends can find me: I don’t want to be hard to find. I just don’t want people who find me to automatically thereby find my list of friends as well. My friends deserve more privacy than that.

Update: Maybe it is possible after all. Thank you to Heidi Moore, who showed me this trick: if you click on “Profile” at the top of the page, you’ll see a box of “Friends” in the left-hand column. That has a pencil in it; click on that, and then uncheck the box saying “Show my friends on my profile”. It’s got to help, anyway.


Update 2: This isn’t a perfect solution, by any means. Heidi adds:

Even if you close off your friends list in your profile, it’s open to anyone on all of Facebook who shares even one friend with you.


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Since you’re so popular, you need a fan page for people to easily find you. Then you create another account with a pseudonym that only you friends know… How does Obama do it?

Posted by MathieuJVL | Report as abusive

It is possible to restrict access to your Friends list. You have to put all your friends in a group and you can restrict what parts of your profile different groups see. I have my friends list hidden from all of my FB friends.

Posted by Michaelku | Report as abusive

Michaelku, that doesn’t work any more. As Felix said, all your friends can see your mutual friends and your friend list.

Posted by cassandra8 | Report as abusive

For this reason and others, I had to methodically eliminate every message, delete every wall post, and break up with every friend individually and then quit. It took 5 hours.

I’m happier since.

Posted by MattStiles | Report as abusive

Dear Writer friend,
After reading of face book applications on friends and friends on line, sharing and viewing their photos are talking points on number of occasions.
I can not understand that, why we are all much worried about privacy on face book friends.
When we are all clear on posted messages of us, then nothing will happen to us.
While posting of our personal details, we should be much more careful on merits and demerits of these social websites.
For me, i have not affected on any adverse ways.

Posted by mdspatsy | Report as abusive

I also disagree with my friends list being made public without my explicit knowledge. Hopefully, there is an account deactivation feature, which I just used. Facebook keeps all your account information while making it invisible to all users, so you can re-activate it anytime you want.

You can reactivate when you think facebook has re-established some ‘order’ in the privacy features. And another advantage: you don’t need to delete everything manually, just wait for these settings to be brought back.

To deactivate, go to settings -> account -> last line has a “deactivate account” option.

Hope it helps.

Posted by starbuck3000 | Report as abusive

what if they do know some private stuff !!??
who cares ! there is no adress ther no sexual references !
I keep it simple no pics of the kids or the wife.
it’s my facebook after all. And what if they do see youre friends !!!!???? who gives a f**k

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Friends don’t let friends let social networking sites define what “friends” are.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

The issue is that my friends haven’t agreed to be potentially pestered by any enemies I make, unforeseen wild crushers who start obsessively chasing me (yeah, those were the days), adherents of cultish new religion who want to proselytize everyone connected to me, old classmates of mine whose wives are now Amway reps, etc.

If this kind of stuff happens I will not only feel bad, but also potentially start getting a reputation as a pest myself.

Posted by SelenesMom | Report as abusive

Well, it’a all about business and FaceBook has hopes of selling their business someday, probably for billions of dollars. The best way to judge a company that survives on advertising revenue is by the number of subscribers or readers exposed to the ads. So, your just a number unless of course you liable someone, but they are in it for the numbers which equate to bucks. If FaceBook were to become too private then it becomes more difficult to verify how much the company could be sold for.

Posted by Rick-in-NC | Report as abusive

Zak whateverburg needs to stop listening to his “advisors” and start thinking about why people were joining FB…. This is ridiculous…..

Posted by Khaled78 | Report as abusive

Facebook has screwed everyone over once again. This new “show my friends on my profile” check box has now changed to “show everyone my friends”. once again, the friends list is visible to all friends at all times. without telling us, they changed back the change they made.

Posted by drivewell1138 | Report as abusive

I’ve got friends in common with Zuckerberg, yet can only see the mutual friends. Maybe he’s given himself special settings??

What pisses me off most about all of this is I have some real stalkers who can now access my personal friends and family and cause trouble.

Posted by ANC | Report as abusive

Zuckerberg has NOT hidden his friend list if you share mutual friends. The same loophole that applies to all of us applies to him as well.

I have 1 mutual friend in common with him, and, thus I can see all 905 of his friends right NOW.

Here’s how you do it:

*Right click* on the “See All” tab in the box where Mutual Friends appear (near the See All tab) to open up a new window and then click on “Everyone” on the top right. In this way, you can see entire friends’ lists of total strangers.

I can’t imagine that Zuckerberg wants me or anyone else seeing his friends’ list. I wrote to him directly requesting that he fix this loophole. This is a massive security breach and if FB won’t fix it, then I hope the FTC will exert great pressure on Facebook to do so.

Posted by JessicaF | Report as abusive

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook),

I love facebook! I am VERY upset that the PRIVACY FEATURE to keep my friends list private from other friends has been removed. Just realised (with the new privacy rules) is now impossible to hide my friends list to some of my friends as if was in the past. I used to customize my friends list visibility so that of course it was invisible to the non-friends but it was invisible also to some of my friends… I have 761 friends of different kind: 6 kids, family, employees, sport friends, classmates, etc… and I don’t wanted to share them in a public way. Now it’s like I have zero privacy.

I’m not liking these new settings… It is a real abuse! I have just found this hidden “Note” in my Profile (the pencil next to friends): “your friend list is always visible to friends”.

Please advise if Facebook is going to revert this invasion and abuse of my previous privacy settings, if not I may have to deactivate my account shortly.

All my best,


Posted by FacebookPrivacy | Report as abusive

Here’s the problem with me…..MY FRIEND’S look up MY FRIEND’S…..the beautiful ones…..and then ask them to be THEIR FRIENDS!! I cannot believe you haven’t thought of this Mr. Zuckerberg!! This is why I WANT TO HIDE MY FRIENDS!!! Simple answer!!! PLEASE CONSIDER THIS!!!! My male friends are not trying to “network” with my gorgeous girlfriends……they want to begin a “friendship” with the beautiful ones!!!! Of course they do not request to be friends with my male friends!!! PLEASE BRING BACK A FEATURE TO HIDE MY FRIENDS FROM MY FRIENDS!!! Thank you!!

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