Facebook has had a chequered history regarding privacy settings and is renowned for making it difficult for users to accurately tailor their profile to their satisfaction. The company adjusts these privacy policies (or ‘data use policies’ as they prefer to term it) a few times each year, making it difficult for users to keep tabs on what’s being shared. On top of that, it’s not always the easiest task to understand what Facebook plans to do with this information. However, change may be afoot.
An Easier System?
Promised for later this month, Facebook will be updating its site to include a number of new privacy shortcuts aimed at making it easier for the user to control what is and isn’t seen on the social site from their mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer.
Once updated, users will be able to access their privacy settings via a privacy “shortcut” available on the toolbar in the upper-right hand portion of their screen. This will allow the user to tailor exactly who can, and more importantly, who can’t see their photo and status updates, as well as what other pieces of information are shared with their networks. Facebook users will also be able to block certain users from viewing their profiles directly by using this new shortcut.
Other features include a “reminder” system that will inform the user exactly where their latest post, photo or update will actually appear across the network. Facebook have given this feature the grandiose title of “In-Product Education”.
And now, all users will be visible when a search is performed. Up until now, users could effectively “disguise and hide” themselves on the network, meaning if a boss or spouse wanted to investigate another user, they could do so without detection. The update will remove this possibility.
Finally, a multiple “de-tagging” function will be available via a tab on the profile page, allowing not only the removal of any compromising photos of the user, but also the option of sending a direct message to the publisher of the pictures to ensure it doesn’t happen in the future!
Facebook Versus Politics
In a statement issued last week, Facebook announced that it would making a number of changes to some of its policies, one of the most interesting being that they would be removing a voting system that was previously in place that allowed users to vote on any proposed changes to the social network.
Before being implemented, this proposal itself was put to the public vote and received a very poor turnout from users. According to Facebook, this was in line with previous voting sessions when only a very small percentage of users took up their right to reply. In order to keep the voting system, more than 30 percent of Facebook’s users would have had to vote in favour of keeping it While 30 percent sounds more than generous, 30 percent of 1 billion is still a very large number. Less than 700,000 voted on these changes once the polls had closed and so the voting system was removed.
Facebook has stated that the voting system will be replaced by regularly scheduled webcasts that will allow users to discuss any issues they have with the social network. Whether these opinions will be taken to heart (or the system will even be implemented), however, remains to be seen.
Further Changes Afoot?
In recent months, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has made it no secret that he wishes to make the network’s own search engine a more integral part of the whole experience. While this would be of massive financial benefit, it could also render much of the new privacy policies useless as it would effectively put users information on a much larger web-based stage.
With integration of other social media continuing apace (Twitter, Instagram, Myspace etc now allow posts to be directed from their own networks straight to Facebook) how long will it be before all users’ profiles resemble a conglomeration of all the above? A cynical observation perhaps, but it always seems that while Facebook gives with one hand, it’s always ready and willing to take with the other.