Facebook has announced changes to its privacy controls, to become effective by the end of the year, in a bid to reassure users of their power over their online content.
Among the new features are “Privacy Shortcuts”, a new Activity Log, and a Request and Removal tool for users to deal with photograph tagging. New informative tips will also support users’ control over content.
The changes are intended to simplify users’ control over content on their profile, and make the website more transparent. The gesture is widely held to be Facebook’s response to criticisms that privacy settings on the site were too complex to navigate and effectively control.
Samuel Lessin, Facebook’s Product Development Manager, said: “We continue to strive toward three main goals: bringing controls in context where you share, helping you understand what appears where as you use Facebook, and providing tools to help you act on content you don’t like.”
The Privacy Shortcuts will see a scroll-down menu installed on users’ taskbars, providing quick access to answers to basic privacy questions such as “Who can see my stuff?”, “Who can contact me?”, and “How do I stop someone from bothering me?”.
Apps will also be required to ask permission to access a user’s profile, friends list and email address, while users will be able to separately authorise whether an app is allowed to post on friends’ profiles. Facebook will provide prompts to users to regulate these settings for each app.
This comes in response to complaints from users that apps were accessing information and posting to friends without their knowledge or control.
In a move to improve the transparency of the site, Facebook will also be implementing informative notices providing context and tips on security settings. For example, if a user removes a post from their timeline, a notification will advise the user that the post still appears in the search, news feed and other functions on the site.
The Activity Log and improved Request and Remove features will be more streamlined, allowing users to more easily review activities on a profile, and facilitating reactions to photographic (and other) content posted on profiles by other users, including ways to refuse tagging of pictures.
The changes are separate from the proposed alterations included in Facebook’s recent controversial poll.