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8/23/2011
11:55 PM
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Facebook Gives Users Some Privacy

More granular control over privacy settings

Now when one of your former college buddies on Facebook tags you in a photo that you'd rather not have your co-worker see, you can review it -- and nix it -- before it goes live on your Wall.

Facebook today announced a series of privacy changes and tweaks that take some of the confusion and complexity out of privacy settings, including photo-tagging, and new inline privacy settings.

"You have told us that 'who can see this?' could be clearer across Facebook, so we have made changes to make this more visual and straightforward. The main change is moving most of your controls from a settings page to being inline, right next to the posts, photos and tags they affect. Plus there are several other updates here that will make it easier to understand who can see your stuff (or your friends') in any context," said Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook, in a blog post today.

Facebook long has been criticized for forcing users to share information by default, making the act of restricting it both onerous and ambiguous. Experts say the privacy settings were confusing and not well-explained. Some say Facebook may be feeling pressure from Google's new Google+ social network's more user-friendly privacy settings.

The Facebook profile page now will include more visible, easy-to-use tools that set who can see or post photos and other posts. "Your profile should feel like your home on the web -- you should never feel like stuff appears there that you don't want, and you should never wonder who sees what's there," Cox said.

Facebook previously had buried privacy settings, but now they will display inline: "Content on your profile, from your hometown to your latest photo album, will appear next to an icon and a drop-down menu. This inline menu lets you know who can see this part of your profile, and you can change it with one click," Cox said.

Craig Spiezle, executive director of the Online Trust Alliance, says the OTA looks forward to working with Facebook and other sites "proactively address emerging concerns, while supporting innovative new services."

"The Online Trust Alliance supports efforts of all sites and publishers to provide users discoverable and intuitive controls of the access, usage and sharing of their information and data. This is a key to online trust," Spiezle said in a statement.

And if you have a change of heart about a post you make, or if you inadvertently post an update or photo to the wrong group, you can change it.

The ambiguous term "Everyone" among the Options of who can see what has been changed to the more descriptive and to-the-point "Public," and users also can review, approve or reject any tag that another user attempts to post on his photo and updates.

Facebook also is offering group designations. "For each audience, there is now an icon and label to help make it easier to understand and decide who you're sharing with. Also, when you tag someone, the audience label will automatically update to show that the person tagged and their friends can see the post," Cox says. "This dropdown menu will be expanding over time to include smaller groups of people you may want to share with, like co-workers, Friend Lists you've created, and Groups you're a member of. These will make it easy to quickly select exactly the audience you want for any post."

Among the other new features: the ability to add tags of anyone on Facebook, and if a "non-friend" from Facebook tags you in a photo, you get to approve or reject it before it goes live; location can be added from anywhere, not just smart phones, and can be part of a status update, photo, or wall post.

Facebook says the new privacy features will roll out over the next few days.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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