New Facebook privacy changes

Facebook
has simplified privacy settings in response to sustained criticism over
previous changes that have reached a crescendo in recent weeks.

The
changes introduce a one-click control for content. Users can choose to share
content on Facebook with friends, friends of friends, or everyone. The social
network has retained granular controls for those who want to customise these
settings, with controls moved over onto a single page.

Users
can now restrict access to their personal connections (friends and pages, which
are replacing lists of interests, universities attended etc.) on Facebook to a
circle of friends, if they desire. A person’s name and picture will always be
available to everyone, as before, to aid searching. The social network also
promised to carry over users’ presets when it introduces new products,
something it conspicuously failed to do with the privacy roll-back it applied
last December, the last time the social network made major privacy changes.

In
response to criticism, Facebook has made it much simpler to turn off features
that allow the sharing of data with third-party websites. Screenshots
illustrating the new controls can be found here. All this seems well and good but
the devil may well lie in the details.

Some
security commentators have already criticised the opt-out approach to changes
once again adopted by Facebook. Others have described the revised policy as
seemingly impressive but low on actual protection, something Ed Felten describes
as “privacy theatre”.

The
changes will be rolled out to Facebook’s 400 million users starting on Thursday
in a process that is likely to take a few weeks.

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