Facebook Privacy: 4 Changes In Works

Facebook plans to give users more control over sharing, including new photo privacy settings and reminders about public posts. Here's what to expect.

Kristin Burnham, Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

April 9, 2014

4 Min Read

10 Famous Facebook Flops

10 Famous Facebook Flops

10 Famous Facebook Flops (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Facebook knows its history with privacy is complicated. That's why it's planning to test a handful of changes to help you understand who you're sharing content with and how your friends' sharing affects you.

"Some people have felt Facebook privacy has changed too much in the past, or we haven't communicated as well as we could have," Michael Novak, product manager at Facebook, said in a press briefing. "Now we're thinking about privacy, not just as a set of controls or settings, but as a set of experiences that help people feel comfortable."

The social network conducts 4,000 privacy-related surveys in 27 languages each day to help it fine-tune its privacy interface. Facebook even installed a screen in its office that surfaces comments and feedback from users as a constant reminder of how it can improve, Novak said.

[Get a grip on your account. Read 10 Most Misunderstood Facebook Privacy Facts.]

One change that stemmed from user feedback and the privacy surveys was Facebook's decision last fall to allow teens to post publicly. This controversial change drew criticism from both parents and privacy groups.

The new privacy changes Facebook will test include clearer explanations of your settings, additional controls for your photos, and reminders when you're about to post publicly. Here's a look at what you can expect.

Updated audience selector

When you post to Facebook, you can change the audience of each post by clicking a dropdown menu next to the post button. Options include Public, Friends, Only Me, Your Lists, and Custom.

According to Facebook, it will update this dropdown menu by adding details below each audience option. For example, Facebook will clarify Public with "Anyone on or off Facebook" and Friends with "Your friends on Facebook."

More visible mobile sharing settings
When posting to Facebook via a mobile device, Facebook's audience selector has been hidden behind an icon that corresponds with your privacy setting -- a globe if you post publicly, a two-person silhouette to share with friends, and a lock symbol if the post is private, for example.


In a new test, Facebook will move the audience selector to the top of the update status box in a new "To:" field similar to what you see when you compose an email. This change makes it easier to see who you're about to share something with, which can help prevent unintended sharing.

Additional photo settings
Your current profile photo and cover photos are automatically public, but Facebook will soon let you change the privacy setting of your old cover photos. (Facebook already lets you change the privacy settings of your former profile photos.)


When you receive the update, navigate to your photo albums homepage and open the one entitled Cover Photos. To change the audience of a photo, click it, and then hover over the icon next to the date. Choose your new privacy setting for the photo from the dropdown menu.

Privacy reminders
Over the past few weeks, some Facebook users noticed a friendly new face -- its privacy dinosaur. This "privacy checkup" message warns users when they're about to share a status update, photo, or link that will be visible to anyone. The popup displays a cartoon dinosaur using a laptop and asks you to verify with whom they want to share the post.


"Sorry to interrupt," the message says. "You haven't changed who can see your posts lately, so we just wanted to make sure you're sharing this post with the right audience. (Your current setting is Public, though you can change this whenever you post.)"

Facebook will also test a new notification that explains the rules of resharing. For example, if a friend shares one of your posts on his or her timeline, only your mutual friends will see it, Facebook said. The social network will make this clear in a new alert.

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About the Author(s)

Kristin Burnham

Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior writer. Kristin's writing has earned an ASBPE Gold Award in 2010 for her Facebook coverage and a Min Editorial and Design Award in 2011 for "Single Online Article." She is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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