Facebook privacy changes in the pipeline

Facebook plans to unveil a number of updates and changes to its privacy settings in the coming days, all of which will affect various aspects of the social network, from profiles to status updates to tags.

Facebook will unveil a number of updates and changes to its privacy settings in the coming days, all of which will affect various aspects of the social network, from profiles to status updates to tags.

Rather than locating privacy controls on a separate ‘settings' page, most privacy options will now be housed on a users profile, meaning an icon and corresponding privacy control setting will be found directly next to the post, photo, tag, or piece of information that it relates to.  

“You have told us that, 'Who can see this?' could be clearer across Facebook, so we have made changes to make this more visual and straightforward,” said Chris Cox, Facebook's VP of product, on the company blog. His comment indicates that the company is making an effort to listen to consumers and provide them with the features they desire.

Cox added that the privacy control drop-down menu for status updates is likely to expand to include friend lists and groups of people the user frequently communicates with, making “it easy to quickly select exactly the audience you want for any post.”

That feature alone, if not more of the updates, make Facebook seem very similar to Google+, a service that has touted its easy-to-control privacy settings since its launch earlier this summer.

However, in an interview with  All Things D, Cox said the updates have been in the works for six months and have nothing to do with Google. It's an interesting comment considering that the two companies are often in competition and that Facebook's new features hold many similarities, both visually and in concept, to Google+.

Other privacy changes include granting users the ability to approve or reject photo and status tags before they appear on his/her Facebook profile and providing more options to accompany tag-removal, such as the ability to message the photo owner or tagger or to request that the content be removed. 

Additionally, users will be able to change status update privacy settings at any point after the initial post. So if a user decides that he would rather not have a colleague see his status, he can head to the privacy controls and make a change without deleting the status.

The company also announced that it is phasing out Facebook Places, the Foursquare-like feature that allowed users to check in to various locations from a mobile device. However, after the changes go into effect, users will be able to add location tags to status updates, photos or wall posts from any device.

Overall it seems the company is taking some salient steps towards making consumers happy, and has definitely made a smart decision in announcing the changes before actually rolling them out. 

But as the changes roll out in the days and weeks to come it should be interesting to see how users react because, though they will gain more control of their settings, we all know that consumers do not tend to react well to change, particularly when it happens on Facebook.

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