Once Facebook leveled the playing field and simplified the point of entry for the unfettered sharing of media and social status updates, it encountered a new challenge that has dogged the social media giant ever since: privacy. Now the company is taking another step to integrate more privacy controls into the site and clarify which content is visible to others and who can access that content.
Brands, marketers, users and Facebook will all be impacted by how these privacy controls are used when they roll out at the end of the year. Facebook is introducing numerous updates to the site including privacy shortcuts, app permissions, in-product messages to notify users that content hidden from their timeline may still appear in news feed, search and other places on the site. Facebook is also updating the activity log and introducing a new tool to request the removal of multiple photos they may be tagged in, giving users the ability to ask multiple friends to take down the pictures they don't like in a single screen.
"We continue to strive toward three main goals: bringing controls in context where you share, helping you understand what appears where as you use Facebook, and providing tools to help you act on content you don't like," Samuel Lessin, director of product management at Facebook, noted in a blog post detailing the changes.
Privacy shortcuts will give users access to key settings directly in the toolbar to help them manage "Who can see my stuff? "Who can contact me?" and "How do I stop someone from bothering me?" from anywhere on the site.
App permissions are also getting an overhaul. App requests for permission to use personal info and post to Facebook will no longer be a single screen. Users will soon be able to approve or deny each of these requests separately, thereby giving users access to popular Facebook apps without allowing that app to post on their behalf. "Many of the apps you use will move to this new model, but some will not - for example, games apps on Facebook.com will not change," Lessin added.
To help educate users about these changes in context, Facebook users will soon see a series to messages to remind them that although specific content may be hidden from the timeline it could still appear elsewhere on the site.
Finally, the updated activity log features new navigation that will put all reviewable content in one area for users to organize and set privacy controls under accordingly. A request and removal tool in the activity log will give users the ability to select multiple photos and ask friends to remove them.
This overhaul of Facebook's privacy controls marks the first major changes to the site since the company went public seven months ago, and it comes just days after the site revoked its users' right to vote on privacy policies.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.