Facebook rolls out long-awaited privacy overhaul today

Facebook is revamping its privacy settings today, giving users more control over who sees what they publish every single time they share. The social network, now the world’s largest at 350 million users, announced these changes back in July.

They include:

  • Regional networks are being removed. Now that certain networks, which can encompass entire countries, have grown to several million users, they’ve become essentially meaningless in terms of privacy. So Facebook is eliminating them and allowing users to share information with friends, friends of friends or publicly.
  • There’s a transition tool to help guide users through the changes. But the default settings will give extra privacy to sensitive information like phone numbers.
  • There will be control for every single item a user publishes, whether they want to share that with only their family, their closest friends, work colleagues, all friends or everyone.
  • There are special protections for minors. Even if they opt to share items with everyone, those items will only be shared with all of their friends.

You can read more about the changes here. Facebook’s privacy settings have long had a rather complicated user interface. Users could create friend lists but they’d have to add people one-by-one from a list that could include hundreds or thousands of people.

It was hard to tell what was visible to others — if a user shared a party picture, could their co-workers see it? Or their parents? Or everyone? That made sharing on Twitter rather simple by comparison, where if you share an item it’s very clear that it goes out to everyone. Ultimately, this move is about reasserting Facebook’s unique value as the only place where a user can control how narrowly or broadly they want to share their interests and life.

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