Facebook to improve privacy settings

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Facebook apparently is beginning to understand that users of the social networking site care about their privacy and would like simple control over who can read which posts.  It took long enough, but new privacy controls announced Tuesday give users much clearer options.

Whether the move is a response to the more friendly privacy controls on Google's new social networking service, Google +, as some have suggested really doesn't matter. What counts is that you will have more direct control of who sees a post at the time you post it. Privacy settings aren't deep in the system on a separate page, but easily accessible with a single click.

Facebook is also changing some of the  descriptive language.  Instead of sharing with "Everyone" the comparable option going forward is "Public."

"We are changing the name of this label from Everyone to Public so that the control is more descriptive of the behavior: anyone may see it, but not everyone will see it," explained Facebook's Chris Cox.

Another improved setting has to do with tagging in photos.  It used to be if you were tagged in a friends photo, it automatically showed in your newsfeed and on your wall.  Now you'll have the ability to block those pictures from your wall.

Yet another feature allows you to change your mind.  Suppose you realize you've shared a post more broadly than you intended or that you realize upon mature reflection that you don't want it disseminated so broadly.  You'll be able to change the status of the post any time.

Why is Facebook finally listening to its users?  Because the company is really afraid that meaningful privacy legislation might just pass.

Ultimately that's what consumers need: Laws that guarantee consumers the right to control how their online information is used and for what purposes.  And they need the right to be able to remove their data if they wish.

John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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