Managing Facebook’s New Privacy Options

A while back I wrote about four tools that helped unscramble Facebook’s privacy settings. Recently, Facebook announced that they were launching a revamped privacy settings menu. Essentially, while the more complex and “granular” options still remain, there is now an easier method of selecting which options are viewable by whom.

Revamped Settings

Over the next few weeks all 500 million Facebook users will see the following menu above their news feeds:

fb- - message

Clicking on “Learn more” takes you to a privacy “explanation page” showing you how to use the updated privacy settings.

The settings can be accessed by clicking on “Account -> Privacy Settings”.

fb--menu

fb - new privacy settings

The revamped privacy settings page summarises your privacy options. As you can see, most of my options are set to “Friends Only”, the two options that are set to “Other” (i.e. “Birthday” and “Email addresses and IM”) are options which I have hidden from everyone.

The different options (Everyone, Friends of Friends, Friends Only and Recommended) are preset by Facebook and the settings generally correspond to the named options (i.e if set to “Everyone” all your information on Facebook is viewable by the world).

fb- - everyone

fb- - friends of friends

fb- - friends only

fb- - recommended

Clicking on “Customize Settings” allows you to fine-tune your choices for sharing information

fb- - custom options

The drop-down menus allow you to select the group of people (“Everyone”, “Friends of Friends” or “Friends Only”) you would want to share that particular piece of information with.

To select “Only Me” from the drop-down menu, select “Customize” and then from the sub-menu select “Only Me”.

fb- - menu

fb- - only me

There are three other sub-settings in the privacy options that can also be changed.

fb----privacy-settings

1. Basic Directory Information

Clicking on “View Settings”, under “Basic Directory Information” allows you to change a number of Facebook privacy options. These options are quite detailed and generally relate your personal data. The information that can be changed includes the ability to be “searchable” on Facebook and the option to block friend requests (this can be limited to “Friends of Friends”), messages, education and work details, location details and other interests interests. It is also possible to hide your friends lists from everyone.

fb- - basic directory

2. Application and Websites

The second set of privacy options includes options for protecting yourself from “Applications, Games and Websites”. Click on “Edit Setting” to launch this panel.

fb- - applications

Clicking on “Remove” allows you to remove access privileges form specific applications.

fb- - applications remove

Clicking on “Turn Off” allows you to be disconnected from all applications.

fb- - applications turn off

Clicking on the drop-down menu under “Game and application activity” allows you to change who can see your game and application updates.

fb- - application game

You can control which parts of your information is available to applications and websites when your friends use them. Click on “Edit Settings” under “Info accessible through your friends”.

fb- - application info

Here you can decide which elements from your profile is accessible to applications and websites your friends use [Note: I have not found any discernable benefit from making my personal data available to third-party applications which friends use].

fb- - applications info

The next option that you can change is the “Instant Personalisation” feature. This has caused much controversy and most commentators suggest that this be switched off. Essentially, this service makes your data available to websites as soon as you open them, this includes a number of partner third-party website. For example, if you navigate to www.time.com, it would show on your profile that you had visited, all without any input from you.

Click on “Edit Settings” to open the privacy panel.

fb- - application instant personalisation

Once opened you can uncheck “Enable instant personalization on partner websites.” to remove yourself from this new feature.

fb----instant-personalisation

Finally, you can remove yourself from being searchable on Google. Click on “Edit Settings” under “Public search”.

fb- - application public search

Simply uncheck “Enable public search”.

fb- - public search

3. Block Lists

You can also add users and applications to a universal block list. Click on “Edit your lists” under “Block Lists” to customise your options.

fb-block-lists

Conclusion

It is apparent that Facebook has heard the blogosphere cry out against the rapid changes they have made to their privacy options. In many cases personal information that users believed was protected was made available to everyone without any input from the user, essentially it became “opt-out” rather than “opt-in”. Many commentators have stated that the new options merely “simplify” the settings without actually providing any assurance as to the security of your information, in effect providing a “gloss” over the settings.

To address future privacy concerns Facebook has launched a “Facebook and Privacypage which regularly updates with changes to Facebook’s privacy options.

Clearly Facebook is doing its best to address its privacy woes, however it seems that Facebook and more importantly Mark Zuckerburg are unable to articulate their vision of privacy. For the moment the current updates will have to suffice.

Image credit: Jimmy Miranda