Facebook is overhauling its privacy settings – frequent targets of criticism for their opaque policies and difficulty of use. This comes as Google’s new social service, Google+, gains popularity.
Google+ allows users to customize the privacy settings on everything they post. Connections are separated into “circles,” simplifying the sharing and concealment of information. Facebook’s new settings seem to be inspired by Google’s.
According to The New York Times, “When the changes are introduced on Thursday, every time Facebook users add a picture, comment or any other content to their profile pages, they can specify who can see it: all of their so-called Facebook friends, a specific group of friends, or everyone who has access to the Internet. These will be indicated by icons that replace the current, more complicated padlock menu.”
“We want to make this stuff unmistakably clear,” Chris Cox, vice president for product at Facebook, said in an interview. “It has to be clear that Facebook is a leader in how people control who sees what.”
We’ll see if Cox’s statement holds true tomorrow, when the new settings roll out. Until then, here are a few of the significant changes:
Photo Tags: A new tool will allow you to approve or reject any picture or post you’re tagged in before it appears on your page. You can choose to disable the tool and keep the setting as it is now, which means everything will automatically be approved. This isn’t a flawless method of preventing embarrassing pictures from popping up on Facebook. Even if you reject a tag, the picture will stay up; it just won’t be associated with your name.
Simplified Privacy Settings: The site’s privacy settings will no longer be cloistered away on a page that requires a guide map to find. OK, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but the new settings are a huge improvement in the user-friendliness department. Next to each section on your profile, there will be a mini drop-down menu. The choices will allow you to select who can see that particular part of your profile – very similar to Google+’s format.
Status Updates: Just like the drop down that appears for the various content sections on your profile, a privacy menu will appear each time you post an update. You can choose to share your thoughts with everyone or just a select, customizable group of friends.
See Your Profile As An Outsider: If you’ve ever wondered (or worried) about what your boss, your mother-in-law or your Ex- can see on your page, this tool is for you. The option lets you view how your page looks from particular people’s screens. There will be a new button at the top right corner of your Facebook page that reads “View Profile As.” Type in a name and see your profile as that person does.