Facebook tweaks its privacy settings

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(CNN) — Everyone has that friend or family member who unwittingly still posts publicly on Facebook. It’s not that they’re over-sharers, they just haven’t bothered to keep up with the social network’s ever-changing and often confusing privacy settings.

Facebook highlighted some of its minor new and future privacy features on Tuesday, including one aimed squarely at the people left behind by complicated settings.

A new pop-up message featuring a cartoon dinosaur will appear for Facebook users who haven’t tinkered with their privacy settings in a while. When someone who always shares publicly posts a link or update, Facebook will double check that they really want to share it with that audience.

The company’s privacy team is also testing other tweaks, including updating mobile and Web designs with more prominent audience controls, a new default privacy setting for cover photos (old images used to be public, now they’re private), and a message clarifying who can see an image you post when your friends re-share it.

In its 10 years, the social media company has amassed more than a billion users. That’s a lot of people to please, but one area that has received consistent cries of dissatisfaction is privacy.

When Facebook updates a setting or adds a feature, there is often a privacy backlash, especially when new sharing settings make information public by default. The company’s motto, “Move fast and break things” led to broken trust with users.

To counteract that sense of wariness, Facebook is making sure future privacy considerations aren’t just part of a settings screen, but also taken into account by engineers making new features and at the infrastructure level.

“We understand that some people have felt that Facebook privacy has changed too much in the past,” said Mike Nowak, a product manager on Facebook’s privacy team.

Not changing settings ever again isn’t an option, so Facebook is searching for new ways to improve the experience that won’t anger or alienate users. The company has been running extensive surveys to find out what kind of privacy experiences people are having on the site and in the app. It currently runs 4,000 surveys a day in 27 languages.

Squeezing useful information out of these surveys can be difficult. Facebook engineering manager Raylene Yung said people will commonly just write in the word “privacy” when asked what they want to improve. However, enough users have managed to articulate what situations upset them. People said when they share things on Facebook they feel their info is shared with more people than they wanted. Facebook knows giving those people a sense of control is key to keep them from leaving the service.

“At the end of the day … when people have an unpleasant surprise like this it’s bad for them and it’s bad for us,” said Nowak.

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1 Comment

  • Jeff Walsh

    What they really really need is the ability to go back to any prior entry on your timeline and check and change the privacy setting at any time… sometimes I will make a comment on some website… like this… and it will echo on facebook and depending on the topic, I might want my post only shared to friends and not just be a public post… it would be nice to be able to adjust this… or simply change my mind… and it could go both directions… sometimes I might share to only friends and change my mind that it is a good thing to be on my public profile. Its goofy that it seems you only have one chance to set the privacy on a post… at the start and then you are stuck with it.

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