Big Changes Coming to Facebook's Privacy Controls

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The company is trying to make users feel more in control of their posts, all in the name of getting people to share more (and more!).

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Facebook

Today Facebook is announcing a series of improvements to its privacy controls that the company hopes will make users feel more secure when posting to the site.

The changes will bring privacy settings closer to the content they control. In the past, users had to head to a specific privacy page in order to control the master settings of their account. Now, on almost every page, Facebook will provide a special dropdown box where users can see and control these options. In addition, users will see messages that will help them better understand where their posts appear (e.g. News Feed, Timeline) and who can see what. A streamlined activity log is designed to bring all content pertaining to any one user into one place where he or she can control it. As shown above, a new system for untagging and requesting the removal of embarrassing or otherwise inappropriate images will be put in place. All of the upgrades will begin rolling out to users by the end of this year.

None of these changes affect what data you are sharing with Facebook itself, and how it will use that information for its targeted ad campaigns. If you "like" a page about a new Toyota -- even if you do so privately -- Facebook could still use that information to push ads to you from car dealers, though the company says it will never share your name with other companies.

Nothing in the new design will change how Facebook sharing fundamentally works nor will it alter any settings a user has already in place. Rather, the changes are cosmetic ones to the interface -- though, when it comes to privacy, such cosmetic changes are significant: No matter how much control users have over their information, it doesn't mean much if managing it is impossible to figure out or a hassle to do. Facebook is betting that by making this process easier, people will feel better about the service and reduce any inhibitions they have about posting there. In the end, the goal for Facebook, as always, is more sharing.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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