My wife wants to start a family Facebook page because most of her friends seem to have stopped communicating any other way. She wants this to be as private as possible, she is not interested in being contacted by anyone other than a rather short list (she is a teacher is not interested in her former students commenting on her wall, etc.). I know the privacy settings have changed recently but know very little about Facebook otherwise. What are the key privacy or other settings that she needs to be sure to activate? In the past these were often hidden. Are they still? How straight forward is making a safe Facebook page?
If she is worried she should use a fake name and email address people don't know and then just add the few friends she wants. I only have a fake facebook page i use to follow my tattoo artist and some bands. The privacy settings are pretty straight forward. Just make everything friends only.
There are privacy settings available, sure. Problem is, Facebook's value proposition is in being a huge privacy-sucking machine.
There are plenty of other ways for data to leak over the 'Net:
Through apps. These have access to much of your personal data. Apparently the situation's improved, but older apps may still have "grandfathered" access.
Through advertising engines. Ads and ad networks are FB's bread and butter.
Through your friends, tagging, and other means. If you can't be found directly, your social graph (a fancy term for "people you know") will probably out you.
Through back-end snooping.
True story: I work in tech, was investigating a site outage (large, entertainment-industry site). We'd identified one culprit pretty readily, but I suspected other shennanigans. Two of the biggest traffic streams were a distributed query (from a Canadian hosting provider's netspace, a couple hundred separate IP addresses) hitting an email validation query nobody even knew we had (likely a spammer validating stuff).
The other was a search engine for one of a number of "personal information aggregators" -- those people search / classmate finder type services. Together the traffic was more than we saw from major search engines (search-engine spiders are generally your largest traffic hits), over 10% of our daily hits.
I've also interviewed for numerous companies working with this sort of data -- there's a huge interest in it. I personally don't have a lot of interest in working in that area, though I like to have an idea of what's going on.
Among the reasons the media are having such a spazgasm over FB is that it's a huge marketing/advertising/demographics trove for them as well.
As another tech guy I have to agree with k-dingo, but I think here are the settings you're after.
Under Account Settings->Privacy Settings - Everything under "Things I Share" -> Set to Friends Only. Disable "People Here Now" - Things Others Share - Set everything to either Only Me or Friends Only - Photos and Videos I'm Tagged in - Edit Settings - Only Me - Friends Can Check Me Into Places - Disable - Contact Information -> Set all to Only Me
That will lock it down about as much as you can. Don't accept friend requests of people you don't know and don't add apps.