August 23, 2011, 6:04 PM — 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.
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.