Facebook revamps its privacy controls again (thanks, Google+)

Facebook has made its privacy settings easier to find -- but it may not have done so with some healthy competition from Google.

It’s amazing what a little competition can do to change a company’s outlook. Thus we have today’s news that Facebook is revamping its privacy controls yet again to make it “easier to share with who you want,” per the Facebook Blog.

That less-than-grammatical description encompasses a number of changes to how Facebook gives you access to your privacy settings – though not so much to the settings themselves.

[Can Facebook privacy be simple? and Facebook Privacy Changes Go Live, Beware of "Everyone"]

In my humble opinion, there’s one big reason why this is happening now, and that reason is Google+. (There’s also a smaller reason, named Diaspora – look for a blog post on that service later this week.) This is a good thing. But I digress.

The changes will start to roll out this Thursday, and if history is any indication they may not make it to all Facebook users for a few weeks. But here are the most important changes:

* Tag review. One of my biggest complaints about Facebook is that it allows anyone to tag photos with your name – even if you’re nowhere in the picture. It was up to you to stay on top of tagging alerts and delete tags you didn’t want appearing. Now Facebook will let you preview tags and approve  or delete them before it they appear on anyone else’s wall. You’ll also be given more options about what you want to do – say, whether you want to remove the tag or ask your friend to remove the entire photo.

This is a welcome and long overdue improvement. Along with this change, however, comes a gotcha: In the past, only your friends could tag you in photos. Now anyone can. Again, though, you have to approve the tag before it goes live.

* Granular inline controls. Instead of having to go three or four menus deep into your Account/Privacy settings to change who can see what information in your profile, you’ll be able to click on individual items (like the music or books you like) and decide if you want to share that with only friends, all of Facebook, or select groups. This feature is already in Facebook, but this change makes it easier and more obvious.

* Easier profile preview. Want to see what your profile looks like to strangers? Again, you used to have to dive deep into Facebook’s menus to get at this. Now there will be a button on your profile home page that will give you a quick peek on the spot and help you determine if you’re sharing too much with too many.

* Everyone is now Public. This one is strictly nomenclature. Stuff you make available to everyone will still be available to everyone, only instead of “Everyone” Facebook is now calling this “Public.” Why? Beats me. Apparently they think that’s more clear to every—err, I mean, the general public.

* An ‘oops’ button. Ever post a status update about the fabulous time you’re having at the beach when you’re supposed to be working – and then accidently include your boss among the recipients? Facebook will let you change who gets to see stuff after it’s been posted. (In the past, you had to delete the whole post and start over.) If your boss sees it before you’ve made the change, however, you’re on your own.

This stuff all sounds good. Hopefully we’ll find out in a few days how well it all actually works. In the meantime, thanks Google, for helping to inspire Facebook to clean up its act. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have done it without you. May there be more changes to come.

TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan survived the rare east coast quake just fine, thanks. Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter:@tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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