Facebook’s privacy changes

Facebook has been known to make a few waves when it announces changes to privacy features, so it’s probably hoping that, now with more than 350 million users, the latest redesign won’t make a tsunami. This week’s redesign, which has been in the works since last summer, is meant to both simplify things and give users more control – “more granular control over who can see individual pieces of content while making some basic profile information available to everyone,” as ConnectSafely’s Larry Magid put it in his CNET blog. [Facebook’s three levels of privacy are “Friends,” “Friends of Friends,” and “Everyone.” Parents will want to know that, for users under 18, “Everyone” means at most Friends and Networks, not everyone at all.]

As for what’s entailed: Everybody will eventually experience a little “wizard” window that’ll pop up and say they have to configure their settings (if they’ve already done so, they can keep their current ones, and the wizard will show you what they are). Having seen the process, I can say it’s very easy – if it seems annoying, only a small annoyance. All in all, the changes – straight from the horse’s mouth – are:

* A limited amount of profile info publicly available for all users (name, profile photo, gender, current city, Facebook networks, friend list, and Page affiliations)
* Simplified Privacy Settings page
* The three basic levels of privacy mentioned above
* Apps and Facebook Connect sites can access publicly available info as soon as you interact with them (but they have to ask permission for additional info you haven’t made publicly available)
* Regional networks are going away (they were more viable as a privacy tool in an earlier “era” when Facebook had millions, not hundreds of millions, of users).

Facebook says these changes “have no impact” on the site’s advertising system or how it makes money. For the company’s own thinking behind the changes, see Facebook’s Ana Muller’s blog post here, and pls see Larry’s CNET piece for much more detail than I have here. In related news, ConnectSafely.org has been appointed to Facebook’s new Safety Advisory Board. Here’s CNN’s coverage.

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