Over the next few days, Facebook account holders will see a series of changes to their accounts that Facebook hopes will enable them to better manage their privacy.
The new set-up comes in the wake of the introduction of Google’s social networking service Google+, which has been widely praised for its more granular and easier-to-navigate system for sharing stuff online.
Facebook also needs to bolster trust among its user base as its ham-handed feature roll-outs surprise people and cause them to panic.
Over the years, its moves have built up a vocal base of critics. Privacy and security researcher Christopher Soghoian put voice to this when he told the Wall Street Journal in July: “People do not like Facebook. They do not trust Facebook. Facebook gets people to give up information under the claim that it’s private and then it’s made public. And your only option is to shut down your account.”
That’s a serious potential problem since Facebook’s huge estimated $80 million valuation is predicated on fostering a trusting community of users who are willing to provide information about themselves, their likes and dislikes, and their interactions with their friends and associates to Facebook and its advertisers.
In the next few days, Facebook’s 750 million account holders will see new buttons in their profiles that will enable them to decide right there who they want to share their personal details with. Previously all of these controls resided on a separate settings page that account holders had to discover and navigate to to manage their privacy.
Significantly, account holders will also be given the ability to approve tags of themselves in photographs that are not under their control. They’ll also be given the ability to better manage the tags on Facebook about themselves in general: They can choose to remove the tags from their profiles, remove the tags from Facebook entirely, or ask the tagger/owner of the content to take down the content associated with those tags.
In recent months, Facebook has come under fire for introducing a facial recognition and tagging feature without adequate notice to its account holders. Some European Union officials have vowed to investigate what they are calling Facebook’s huge biometric database of faces.
Get the day’s best political analysis, news and reporting from the TPM team delivered to your inbox every day with DayBreaker. Sign up here, it takes just a few seconds.