Facebook looks to make a splash with changes designed to simplify and standardize its privacy settings. The push to improve privacy comes as Facebook is working to make profiles more searchable over the Web.
Facebook is simplifying its privacy options as it
simultaneously looks to make it easier for members of the social networking
site to share content with anyone on the Internet.
For starters, the company is consolidating about six privacy
pages and roughly 40 settings onto one page. The site will also standardize the
options for each setting so the choices are identical. In the past, users had
to navigate multiple pages if they wanted to change the access policies for
their various status updates, photo albums or links. As a result, sometimes
content would be shared unintentionally.
"We believe that when tools are simple, people are more
likely to use them and understand them," Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer
said during a news conference July 1. "We found that too many privacy
options may result in users not really appreciating what content they're
sharing and with whom."
Facebook is also eliminating "regional networks,"
in which people could share their profiles with anyone in the same geographic
area. This option actually decreased privacy, as some regional networks were
too large and encompassed entire countries, noted Leah Pearlman, a Facebook
"What we found was that while education or school and
work networks are still really effective means of [maintaining] privacy-and
these are not changing-the regional networks actually generated a lot
of confusion for people and reduced some controls," Pearlman said during
the news conference.
All these changes come as Facebook is set to allow users to
make their content available not just to other users, but to the entire Web if
they choose. In a new version of its Publisher, currently a beta, members can
opt to share a given post with "Everyone" on the Internet, whether on
or off Facebook. The new Facebook Publisher also includes privacy features
more granular control over individual pieces of content.
To help users move to the new settings, Facebook is offering
a "transition tool" that allows users to transport their old privacy
configurations over to the new settings. That means that if users have selected
settings that restrict who has access to information, those choices are carried
Facebook officials pointed out that none of the changes
affect what information Facebook provides to advertisers.