Social networking giant Facebook recently announced it was planning a complete makeover to its privacy and information sharing preferences to both simplify the experience and give users more control over how their information is shared with both applications as well as other Facebook users. One of the consequences of the changes is that Facebook plans to completely eliminate popular “regional networks,” which are used by more than 100 million of its registered users.
Now, the company is putting those changes into effect…and will be putting them in everyone’s face. Beginning “very soon,” all 350 million Facebook users will be prompted to review and update their privacy settings using the new tools.
On logging in, users will be faced with a three-step process. The first outlines the changes Facebook is making to its privacy management tools. The second will prompt users to make choices about what parts of their profiles, posts, and streams are visible to other users. If folks have previously placed restrictions on how their information may be shared, the new system will honor those existing restrictions; otherwise, Facebook will automatically set users profiles to share basic information about themselves (including name, gender, a profile picture,work and school information, networks, and friend list). Potentially more sensitive information—like phone numbers and photos—will initially be configured to a more restrictive settings. The third step will confirm a users’ settings and let them know where they can find more information.
The effort may mark the the first time such a large population of users have been required to update and review privacy-related details of their accounts.
The simplified privacy settings are intended to enable Facebook users to have more control over how their information is shared: Facebook and other social networks have been criticized for revealing considerable information about their members by default, and making it difficult to users to location privacy settings and understand under what conditions information will be shared. But just to make the new simplifies settings more complicated, Facebook is also rolling out a new tool at the top of its Publisher tool that will enable users to choose an “audience” for each individual piece of content they post to Facebook.
Facebook maintains that it never shares personal data with advertisers and other partners except as permitted by its users.