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Facebook’s latest privacy changes are fixes

Facebook’s announcement about its latest privacy tweaks this week was a bit of a non-story. The site has been steadily improving users’ experience with privacy controls, making settings less complex and more on-the-spot, or as-you-post over several iterations. This week’s was just another such iteration. For example, a helpful little “privacy shortcut” that will shortly be in the top-right corner of every page. You’ll be able to click on a little padlock icon and choose what you want to control among 3 things: “Who can see my stuff,” “Who can contact me?” and “How do I keep someone from bothering me?” (You can also go to all your settings from there too.) Another great shortcut that’s not labeled as such is the ability to untag oneself in a whole bunch of photos all at once – as well as ask a whole bunch of uploaders of a photo (e.g., a photo of oneself one doesn’t like) to take it down. (Facebook has found most abuse reports concerning photos are sent because the reporting person doesn’t like the way s/he appears in it and, given the chance to tell the poster that in an appropriate way, the poster of the photo is very often willing to delete it.) I won’t go into all the new shortcuts and simplifications here, because others already have (here’s my ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid’s coverage at Forbes, and here’s that of Ad Age). The Los Angeles Times decided to express some suspicion about Facebook’s retirement of the “Who can look my Timeline up by name” setting,” which the site says very few users even used. The thing is, if people can make their Timeline private, there’s extremely little on it that anybody in public could find. Young people generally know this. Two years ago, a Yahoo survey I posted about found that they’re better at managing their privacy than adults are, reporting that “81% [are] using privacy settings when setting up an online profile, compared to 76% of adults and 66% of tweens” (10-to-12-year-olds). [Disclosure: Along with Larry Magid, I’m a member of Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board. If I’m biased about these fixes, it’s because they’re the kind of changes we advise FB to make.]

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