One Control to Rule Them All
Facebook has announced that there will now be only one privacy setting for your entire account. This saves logging in after every Facebook update and changing all of your settings individually back to “Only Friends” or whatever your preferences were.
The control will work historically, meaning that all past content will be blocked as well as all content going forward from eyes that shouldn’t be seeing it. Facebook will also make the current controls available so that you can make exceptions to the rule if you so desire.
Less Information to Be Public by Default
The default Facebook settings allowed people to see who you were friends with and the Pages that you were a fan of. Now, the defaults have been scaled back to no longer allow people to see who you are friends with or pages that you are a fan of unless you give the world permission to do so.
Third Party Apps Given Less Access
Current third party applications and new ones will have severely limited access to your private information, unless you expressly grant it to them.
Ability to Unplug from Apps and Games Entirely
While Zuckerberg warns against the move as it would limit the Facebook experience, Facebook users will now be able to unplug from accessing third party apps and games entirely. You no longer have to send pissy messages to friends who invite you to Farmville; you can simply elect to not be part of that corner of the Facebook world at all.
What's The Catch?
Zuckerberg states on the official Facebook blog that “We recommend that you make these settings open to everyone,” referring to what Facebook terms “basic information” like who you are friends with and what pages you like. He then adds that changing these settings may hide you from people who are searching for you, when in fact you can control the settings individually so that you may still hide this information and leave yourself open to public searching. One would have to speculate that the obfuscation here is deliberate. That being said, no company likes to make a move that goes against their own interests, and Zuckerberg’s warning is simply a method of protecting Facebook’s interests rather than pushing any diabolical agenda. In the end, Facebook is a business.
Zuckerberg has also posted a video to go with his blog post on the subject, and for now you’ll have to go there to see it; we’ll keep a lookout for it and embed it for you as soon as it becomes available.
Will Critics Be Satisfied?
In a word, yes. Facebook has returned to giving users clear, concise access to their privacy controls. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s timeline shows a clear erosion of this simple access, and Zuckerberg et al have returned this access in one fell swoop with these new rules.
Changes Driven By Users
Zuckerberg expressly states in his blog posting that the new privacy controls have come to pass as a direct result of user feedback. Users threatening to abandon Facebook entirely on May 31st must have had an impact, as did the less threatening feedback from other Facebook users both privately and on blogs like Techi. Facebook has correctly realized that its strength comes directly from its users, and if they don’t cater to them, they may indeed lose them en masse to rival social networking services such as Diaspora.
While time and careful dissection will tell, the new Facebook privacy rules do mean that Facebook is pulling back and catering to user satisfaction over their bottom line, and this move should be applauded for that spirit, even if critics still feel that Facebook still has to go a long way to achieve perfection.
Update: While the privacy rules were to be rolled out during the day, I haven’t seen them on my account yet. When I do I’ll make sure to test everything thoroughly and update the article based on what I see. If any of you have them active on your account and you notice any discrepancies, post them in our comments section.