Facebook is tinkering again with privacy settings; this time giving you simplified yet powerful controls that help you get a better handle on what you share. The downside is the same controls could reveal a great deal more about yourself than ever before if you are not careful. Here is a look at the changes and how you might be affected:
Good: The Controls Really Are Simpler
The first time you log in with the new privacy options available, you get a chance to review them. The options appear as radio buttons, letting you toggle between showing specific parts of your profile to "everyone," "friends of friends" or just "friends." Thereafter, you can control access to practically any part of your profile using drop-down lists. The privacy options are easy to find, too, accessible directly from the "settings" tab.
Bad: Controlling Friends List Access Still Stinks
The new update makes your friends list public, so anyone can see them. People didn't like that, and yesterday Facebook tweaked the options, but friends control is not nearly as feature-rich as the other major changes. For starters, friends list access is controlled by clicking the pencil icon in your profile's "friends" box, not from the privacy menu like everything else. More importantly, you can only elect to make your friends list public or private. There's no option to show the list to just friends instead of all or nothing. People are still up in arms.
Good: Control Over Every Status Update
Even if you've opened your profile to all, it's easy to tell friends, but not the world, what you ate for breakfast. Clicking the lock icon next to the "Share" button lets you choose who sees that particular status update. You can even hide an update from individual friends -- perfect for venting about your ex.
Bad: Facebook Recommends Everyone
By default, Facebook suggests sharing everything on your profile to make it "easier for friends to find, identify and learn about you." It should read, "make it easier for anyone in the world to find, identify and learn about you." A little creepier, sure, but this is part of Facebook's never-ending struggle to be, essentially, more like Twitter. Thing is, a lot of people like Facebook because it isn't like Twitter. Don't mess with a good thing.
Good: See How it Looks
I don't believe this is a new feature, but given all the changes, the ability to preview how your profile looks to outsiders is a lifesaver. Just click "Preview My Profile..." from the privacy menu. You can also type in friends' names to see how your profile appears to them. If all these privacy changes make your head spin, retreat to the preview page for guidance.
This story, "Facebook Privacy Changes: The Good and the Bad" was originally published by PCWorld.