After weeks of controversy, Facebook announced a revamp of its privacy settings in the name of simplicity.
In a presentation to the media, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined a number of changes designed to make it easier for users to govern how their information is shared on the social network. The changes will start rolling out today and be available to all users in the coming weeks.
For starters, Facebook has created one control for content shared with “friends,” “friends of friends” or “everyone” that can set a policy with one click. At the same time, Facebook will still allow users to customize their settings. These settings will appear on a single page for easier access.
Facebook also has reduced the amount of information always visible to a user’s name, profile picture, gender and networks are still always visible. Other information such as hometown and activities is still visible by default. In addition, users can now prevent others from seeing pages on their profile and from seeing them in the “People who like this” box on the pages themselves.
Facebook has also sought to make it easier for users to opt out of the “instant personalization” feature it has been pushing for the past month, and has given users the power to turn off information sharing with Facebook Platform applications and third-party Websites.
In all, Facebook reduced the number of settings required to make all information private from nearly 50 to less than 15. The amount of pages in the Privacy Center has also been reduced to eight from 13.
According to Facebook, the changes were developed in consultation with the office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who a month ago asked the Federal Trade Commission to set privacy guidelines for social networks. The site also consulted a number of privacy and consumer advocacy groups, including the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF).
“By giving users powerful new tools to further protect their privacy, Facebook has employed a potent weapon to deal with marketplace apprehensions: self-regulation,” opined Berin Szoka, senior fellow and director of the Center for Internet Freedom at PFF. “Government intervention stands little chance in acting as swiftly or as effectively to tackle such matters…we should trust that users are capable of choosing for themselves if given the right tools, and that companies like Facebook will respond to reputational pressure to develop, and constantly improve, those tools.”