Over the years as Facebook increased in popularity, its handling of its users’ privacy has constantly been under attack and rightfully so. Thankfully, the social network has recently rolled out changes for posting updates and tagging others in media. The changes are welcomed but are these changes clear enough?
New Posting Box
The new posting box does a better job of making who you are posting your update to more upfront. Just to the left of the Post button is a drop-down menu. You can either post your updates to the Public (previously Everyone), just to your Friends, or a Custom set of people and lists.
In additional to the post privacy, you can now easily add who you are with and your current location using the two icons on the far left. This feature is quite useful when uploading a picture or video where tagging friends and locations would seem appropriate. You can still use these options without posting media just to mention where you and your friends had fun recently.
Don’t fret if you’ve accidentally posted something Public. Facebook now allows you to change the privacy setting on a post even after it has been posted. Just hover the mouse over one of your posts, click the Visibility icon that appears on the right, and select a different visibility setting.
Tag. You’re It.
This isn’t the only area Facebook has made changes. Previously, Facebook allowed your friends to tag you in updates, check-ins, and photos. The problem is you had little say in what your friends could and couldn’t tag you in. This was troublesome, especially for those that had a bit of a wild night that they didn’t want their other friends and family to know about.
Hidden away in the Privacy Settings (another area that has also been revamped) is a new section called How Tags Work. Here, you can enable settings to allow reviewing of posts, check-ins, and media you’ve been tagged in. The tagging review is split into two different sections.
Profile Review allows you to authorize what posts, check-ins, or media you’ve been tagged in before they appear in your stream. Tag Review works differently in that it lets you review tags added by your friends to your media. This is helpful to ensure your friends aren’t lying about who’s in your media. It’s also great for preventing spammers from using your media to sell their junk.
By default, these options are turned off. I highly recommend turning these on, especially if you’re the type that likes to have a little bit too much fun with your friends.
As mentioned earlier, with the new Privacy Settings changes comes a new layout to adjust your overall settings.
For example, setting your default privacy setting for apps used for posting to your profile outside of the Facebook web site is marked with three giant icons for Public, Friends, and Custom.
From there, additional settings are split into five categories: How You Connect, How Tags Work (mentioned above), Apps and Websites, Limit the Audience for Past Posts, and Block Lists. Apps and Websites and Block Lists have not changed since the last update to the settings.
How You Connect controls how people can find you and what they can see. Oddly, Everyone is still used here instead of Public. This might be due to the way the questions are phrased put saying Public here would better convey what information is showed where.
A new option called Limit the Audience for Past Posts is interesting in that it allows you to change all your previous posts’ privacy settings to Friends. This is very useful for anyone who didn’t quite understand that their past posts were being shown to more people than they would have liked. You cannot undo this outside of going back to every single post and adjusting the visibility settings one-by-one.
Changes Still Needed
For those using Google+, Google’s new social network that is still in beta, the more visible posting privacy is very similar to Google’s upfront settings. Facebook states it has been working on these changes for months before Google+ was unveiled, but the resemblance is still there.
Posting updates to specific people or lists is still a little tougher to do on Facebook compared to Google+. To post to specific people or lists, select the Custom visibility setting, which brings up the old Custom Privacy dialog box. Change the These people drop-down menu to Specific People…, then start typing in the names of the people or lists you want your update to post to. Once all the lists or peopple you want are added, click Save Changes.
For comparison, to do the same on Google+, click the +Add more people link and select the list (called Circles on Google+) you want to share with. To share with specific people, just start typing their name in the after clicking Add more people.
This is just one area I’d like to see Facebook improve on. In fact, I’m surprised Facebook doesn’t do a better job of promoting its Lists feature. (Check out my previous article if you want to know how to set up lists on Facebook.) It would be nice to see Lists made more prominent in the visibility menu.
Where Facebook does have a leg up on Google+ is the ability to change a post’s visibility even after the post has been shared on your wall. Although Google+ has an Edit Post option, it doesn’t let you change its visibility. I’m sure this will change in the future as Google continues to update features.
Another spot I’d like to see Facebook fix is how information is displayed within the How Tags Work section. Upon clicking the Edit Settings link, Facebook presents to you the various Tag settings you can adjust. In order to see what your current settings are, you have to click the Edit link next to each option.
I’d would also like Facebook to always show your posts visibility setting instead of only showing it while hovering over the post. This would allow for easily glancing over your posts and see if you’ve accidentally set something to a setting you didn’t mean to. Oddly, Facebook DOES show the visibility on every post made by your friends.
This is another small gripe, but Facebook has removed the Add a Link option from the posting box. In order to add a link now, you just paste the link into the posting box. If you try typing in a web address, it won’t automatically generate the link details. This isn’t explained anywhere in the introduction of the new posting box, which can be a little confusing.
Overall, I’m happy with Facebook’s changes. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken them so long to get here, but this is definitely a step in the right direction to gain trust back from the public. Although, I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical and wonder if these actions were only taken out of fear of actual competition from Google’s new social service. It bothers me that it’s taking competition for Facebook to finally be focused on its user experience more so than before. But in the end, competition is good for everyone.