My New Privacy Settings Arrived

Last week, Facebook rolled out a new set of tools and privacy controls.  This week, my profile received the new features. When I opened my home page, I had the option to take a tour of the new controls.  After the brief and somewhat useless tour, I began fiddling with my settings.

The new privacy setting screen is a vast improvement. Before, the settings were all over the place and required a dedicated user to click-through all the screens. Now, the privacy controls are all in one  place.  This should make it easier for kids. Often, I notice walls are private but photos and profiles are wide open.  This new arrangement makes it less likely to miss a feature.

Unfortunately, the mobile phone app does not support all of the new privacy settings.  So under “Control your Default Privacy”, a user can choose three options for their phone app – sharing with the “Public”, “Friends” or “Custom”. If a kid chooses a custom setting they can further limit their posts from their phone to “only me” or “specific people”.  The default setting applies to all status updates and photos posted to your profile from a Facebook app.

As I scrolled through my settings, I noticed the new default settings sometimes assumed a broader audience then my original settings. It’ a good idea to run through everything. Profile Review lets you approve or reject posts that people tag you in before they go on your profile. Tag Review lets you approve or reject tags that people add to your posts. For kids under 18, these options should be automatically enabled.  However, if your kid used a false birthdate and their Facebook age is over 18, they should choose to enable these settings.

I finally found the limit past posts option.  Last week, I looked everywhere and could not find it.  Today, it was right there on the new privacy settings screen.

When I first read about this feature, I thought it was the Facebook equivalent of the “right to be forgotten“. It is not. This feature allows you to limit the audience of past posts to just “friends”. I would like to have seen an “only me” option. This would be a nice addition for kids.  Now, if a kid limited a post to a customize setting such as “family”, limiting their old posts to “friends” could introduce the post to a wider audience.

I may be in the minority but I like the ability to choose the audience for each post. For me, who I choose to share with depends on the content of my individual posts. Also when I comment on a friends post, I know their audience and can tailor my comment accordingly. But, many people feel this is an invasion of privacy.  One commenter posted on the Facebook blog —

“I checked the walls of several friends, and can confirm this: eg. I can go to the wall of a friend, “Andrew”, hover over the icon of each post, and see “Andrew’s friends, except (x and y- names of 2 people)”. What a mess! That info is only Andrew’s business- not others!!  The worst part is that this also affects things posted BEFORE the changes, from what I could see.”

I can see how this may be a problem especially for kids.  Hurt feelings could result if a friend was not included in a post.  Plus, people can now change the visibility of a post after they have published it.  The post originally limited to a small groups of friends, could be changed later to a larger group.  Even with the new settings, kids (and adults) still need to think about a wider audience before posting or commenting.

Facebook wants users reactions to their new privacy settings.  If you have played with these features and wish to comment, go to the Facebook Site Governance  page and let them know what you think .  Facebook is accepting comments until 5:00 PM PDT on September 2, 2011.