After a months-long privacy fiasco, Facebook has taken it upon themselves to revamp the privacy settings to make them simpler and quicker to set and forget. While the new settings are definitely easier to use, Facebook has thrown in a few surprises that the privacy-conscious may not be too happy with. Unfortunately — in some ways — with simplicity comes a lack of control, and Facebook has made sure that the control you don’t have is over information that is made public.
Note: Facebook’s new privacy settings will roll out to users over the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye on your Facebook page for a privacy prompt. When we’re able to test the settings on our own accounts, we’ll be back with our own recommendations.
Instead of having a ton of different content categories to choose from, some of the previous categories have been combined. For example, “status, photos, and posts” are all now in one category, and you can choose to share them with everyone, friends of friends or friends only. In addition, some categories have been removed from this area, like activities and interests (more on this later).
There are some handy “quick links” on the side that allow you to set all your categories viewable to “everyone” or “friends of friends”, as well as a quick setting for Facebook’s recommended settings, pictured above. Of course, you can also customise it to your liking, picking your own privacy setting for each category. A nice green check mark shows which choice in the sidebar you’re currently using, which makes it pretty easy to see what you’re sharing.
The company has (seemingly) responded to criticisms about information that is automatically made public, like your pages and list of friends. When people search for you, they’ll be able to see your name, profile picture, gender and networks, so people can tell who you are when they search. However, there is another interesting addition to this list: Facebook has decided to make your activities and other interests public so people with similar interests can connect with you. There does not seem to be any way to change this to a more private setting. This certainly does simplify things, but it seems like it defeats the purpose of making the other stuff private by default — and it makes us wonder whether they were really listening to the complaints at all this whole time.
Furthermore, they seem to have kept the “opt out” model as opposed to “opt in” as far as sharing your information with applications and other web sites. Again, though, it is simpler — now it’s one single option instead of many. You can view applications, remove any you don’t want or turn off all applications completely, meaning none of your information will be shared.
By default, applications have access to any information that is set to public (i.e. information viewable in searches and information set to be viewable by “everyone”), and applications will ask your permission to view any private data when you install them. So, again, it’s sort of an improvement, but it also seems like they’re trying to pull a fast one on unsuspecting users by making the whole thing opt-out — another major complaint of the past few months that Facebook seems to have just ignored.
Lastly is your block list, which was already pretty simple and has just been kept as its own setting. From here you can block friends and applications from your view; so you won’t see their posts on your news feed or anywhere else.
There are a few things that are still around and should be familiar to anyone who’s taken a look at privacy settings before. You can still set preferences on a post-by-post basis, so if your statuses are set to public but you have one status update that you only want your friends to see, you can just click the lock under the status update box. Also, you can control who can see photos and posts you’ve been tagged in, but you can’t stop people from tagging you, which was one of the glaring features missing in Facebook’s privacy settings before.
As we said, the new privacy settings will roll out over the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for a prompt on your Facebook page when you login over the coming days. In the meantime, let us know how you feel about the changes in the comments.