The New Facebook Privacy Changes: A Primer and To Do List

On December 9, Facebook rolled out new privacy options to its 350 million users. When I logged onto Facebook that Wednesday, I was greeted by a message that asked me to review the new privacy policy and review my privacy settings. Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg blogged about the new changes, which were greeted with raised voices on both sides. Here are some of the major changes:

  • You have always been able to limit what information from your profile was public and private.  But now, Facebook lets you control access to every status update, link, photo, video, etc.
  • When controlling access, you can grant access to different people or groups: Everyone (as in the world), All Friends, Friends of Friends, and specific friends or lists of friends, or deny access/hide from specific friends of lists of friends.
  • Facebook eliminated regional networks, which allowed users to unwittingly share their profiles to entire cities, states, countries, etc.

Advocates for the new privacy changes praised the simplified settings and the increased control over every single post.  Critics, however, are livid over the fact that the default option was to make nearly everything on a person’s profile available to Everyone (that is, until users edited their settings and posts) and the fact that some information is strictly public and can’t be edited.  For example, you can no longer limit who can see your list of friends and your public profile always shows the Facebook pages that you are a fan of.  I know I was ticked off that even though I edited my privacy settings so that my photo albums are globally only available to Friends, Facebook made my existing photo albums publicly available until I edited each one manually.

If the new privacy settings and changes confuse you, here are my recommendations:

  • Review your Privacy Settings by clicking on Settings, then Privacy Settings in the top right menu. Ignore Facebook’s Guide to Privacy and privacy recommendations and set-up your settings they way you like.  Facebook, for example, recommends that “Everyone be able to see information that will make it easier for friends to find, identify and learn about you. This includes basic information like your About Me description, Family and Relationships, Work and Education Info, and Website, as well as posts that you create, like photo albums and status updates.”  For me, this is way too much information for the public to see.
  • Create lists within your Friends list. To do this, click on Friends in the top menu, then click on Friends under Lists in the left menu.  At the top of the page, you’ll see an option for Create New List.  You’ll be able to name your new list then select the friends who should be on that list.  For example, I have created lists for Family, Matrix Group staff, Close Friends, Business Associates, etc.  Create lists that make sense to you and think in terms of this question: “When posting updates, links, photos and videos, how would you like to group your FB friends so that you can easily share information with the right people?”  For example, I might share a photo album of my son just with Family and Close Friends but not Business Associates.
  • Be mindful of the lock icon when posting anything on Facebook. Click on the little padlock anytime you post anything and keep in mind that Facebook defaults aren’t always going to match your privacy settings.  For example, I have set-up my status updates and photo albums to only be available to Friends.  When I post an update or link, the default is set properly to Only Friends, but when I create a photo album, the default is still Everyone.  Grrrr…..
  • Check your public profile on a regular basis and don’t rely on the Facebook preview. I can preview my public profile (or the profile that anyone can access even if they are not logged into Facebook or what the search engines can crawl) from different sections of Facebook and they don’t always match; this could be a legacy of the old settings and Facebook will synchronize them up sometime soon.  But I also know that when you’re logged into Facebook, you get a different view of Facebook.  So I log out of Facebook and access my profile: on a regular basis and monitor what’s available to the world.  I also ask friends who are not my FB friends to check out my profile and verify what is available.

If you want to learn more about the new Facebook privacy changes, here are some good articles:

  • Facebook’s Guide to Privacy
  • PC World announces the Facebook privacy changes
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation on the good, the bad and the ugly of the new changes; this one is absolutely worth a read
  • PC World on how to protect your privacy on Facebook
  • MSNBC on why you should check your privacy settings now; it appears that Mark Zuckerberg himself left some photo albums available to Everyone for a period of time, giving the world a peek into his private life; oops!

How about you?  What do you think of the new privacy changes?  Have you reviewed and tweaked your privacy settings?  What do you like about the new changes?  What’s making you crazy?

6 thoughts on “The New Facebook Privacy Changes: A Primer and To Do List

  1. Thanks for another great post that makes the changes easy for everyone to understand.

    I didn’t like that the new settings made all of my information public as the default, but at the same time I appreciated that it forced me to go in and change everything manually. I admit that that helped me better understand all of the privacy settings and functions of Facebook (because they’re easier to understand in general now), and I have a better grasp of them.

  2. Great blog post. I reposted it to my own FB page and allowed all my 500+ friends to see it, urging them to take precautions. (Normally I only ppost status updates to my 80 or so closest friends–love using the “groups” on FB and the new privacy settings for each post).

  3. I opened things up more. I figure that I don’t post things to Facebook to keep them to myself or certain people, so opening it up more allows me to continue to market myself, but to a wider group of people. I’ve always been pretty veiled about what I posted there, as I never trust anything posted to the internet to remain private anyways.


  4. Thanks for all of the comments!

    Susan, thank you for posting to your Facebook page! 500 friends? Wow!

    Garry, I am now doing the same thing. I never reveal really personal, intimate stuff on Facebook; it’s just too public. I used to only friend “true” friends but with the new privacy settings, I’m inclined to friend more people. I post family stuff to family and close friends, and less personal posts and links to everyone.

    So the new settings are working for me!

  5. Great blog! While some may not agree with the default decisions Facebook made, the new functionality was clearly an enormous step forward for making Facebook a more useful and practical tool for communication. Let’s face it, if cell phones dialed everybody in our phonebook every time we wanted to use them, their use would be limited. Facebook has given us the ability to communicate and collaborate with specific audiences versus a single broadcast. The biggest complaint I’ve heard regarding social media is the ability to separate business and personal. Now, not only can you do that, but you can create virtually limitless groups (or roles) allowing for relevant and specific dialogue to only those of your choice. e.g. family, college buddies, customers, co-workers, etc…

    This was not a devious plot by Facebook to divulge our deepest secrets to the world, but a necessary step in the evolution of social media. As for those infamous default decisions, I understand why it may disturbing to some, but it makes most sense in the open and viral spirit of social media. While I still believe each individual should use judgment when sharing information in any manner, they have now given us the tools to use social media in power new ways. …many of which, we still haven’t even thought of.

  6. I think it’s a huge violation of privacy. It isn’t safe to open up like that. If you want to hurt someone you find their friends or family. Facebook now gives stalkers or harassers easy access. If you want to share your friends you should have the choice, but not be forced. They just published everyone’s friends lists who had them hidden. Their excuse that it’s the social norm completely invalidates those who value privacy.

    I have both friends and associates on my facebook page, and really don’t want my casual acquaintances deciding to contact my close friends. Some people get on there because they want 500 friends, and some people just enjoy the occasional hello and photo update.

    I have read numerous people saying that they want to hide their friends from not just but the public, but also their friends. In what other situation, personal or business, are you forced to reveal your contacts? It’s like facebook is saying if you want to be a social person then you can’t have any personal boundaries.

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