Facebook (Possibly) Comes to Jesus on Privacy Concerns

On the Facebook blog Tuesday, Vice President of Product, Chris Cox, announced that there would soon be some changes to Facebook to make it easier for users to control who sees what is posted on the site. Changes will affect posts, photos, tags, and location information with many of the changes putting the controls inline on the page rather than buried deep in a long list of disembodied settings.

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Since many people use Facebook as their online home, Facebook has figured out that perhaps it shouldn’t be a glass house. And with concerns being raised by governments and alternatives such as Google+ rising in prominence, Facebook has announced that it will become much easier to know and control what gets posted and who has access to it.

Interestingly, the Facebook blog post states “you should never feel like stuff appears there that you don’t want, and you should never wonder who sees what’s there.” Funny, because I’ve felt that way for years. And in another surprising turn of events, Facebook released this information before implementing it. In the past, they’ve been notorious for changing things without notifying people.

The biggest change is a bit philosophical, one that will affect the design significantly. The company will be moving most of the privacy settings away from what is currently called the Privacy Settings page and on to the home page right next to the item that it’s relevant to. For instance, on your profile editing page, when you enter your hometown, you will be able to choose right there who should be able to see that information. You will also have the ability to see how your profile looks to others.

Another big change will be the ability to change your mind. You will be able to change who can see a post or a picture even after you’ve put it up to Facebook. So what seemed like such a good idea last night can be corrected in the morning when you come to your senses. Perhaps more importantly, if other folks have tagged you in a photo, you’ll have the power to approve or reject those tags in an effort to improve your employment prospects in the future.

At the moment, your choices are limited to “Public,” “Friends of Friends,” and “Friends,” with “Public” being a renaming of the former “Everyone.” But moving forward Facebook plans to implement additional groups that will serve more like Google+’s Circles.

Location tagging is also going to change. You will be able to tag most anything with a location: updates, pics, or wall posts. Previously, you could only do this while at the location and only using the Places feature on a smartphone. Now you will be able to tag things after you’ve posted them. You will also have the ability to post where you are and where you are going in case you want to crowdsource some tips. New settings will control who can and can’t see that information.

These changes will be rolling out over the “coming days.” You will be prompted to take a tour of the new features when they arrive.

Check out the complete blog post with links to more details and screenshots of specific features.