Facebook revamps privacy controls

Facebook is letting users approve or reject photos and posts in which they are tagged before the content appears on their profile.

Facebook is letting users approve or reject photos and posts in which they are tagged before the content appears on their profile.

It is among several changes aimed at giving users more control over who sees content about them.

"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 a post on the official Facebook Blog Tuesday by Chris Cox, the social networking company's vice president of product. "Your profile should feel like your home on the web — you should never feel like stuff appears there that you don't want, and you should never wonder who sees what's there."

The changes come two months after Google launched its new Facebook competitor, Google Plus. In a blog post announcing the service in June, Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, said other social networking tools make selective sharing within small groups difficult, and that is what sets Google Plus apart.

According to digital business analytics firm comScore, Google Plus had 25 million unique visitors by July 24. That is a much faster initial growth rate than that of Facebook, the world's biggest social network, when it launched in 2004. Facebook says it hit 750 million active users in July.

Facebook said the changes that will roll out in the "coming days" will let users:

  • Review and approve or reject photos in which they are tagged before the photos appear on their profile. Rejected photos will never appear.
  • Review and approve tags that anyone tries to add to their photos and posts before the tags appear.
  • Change who can see any post after it has already been posted.
  • Easily see what their profile page looks like to others.
  • Choose from clear options for removing tags or content from Facebook, such as requesting that a photo be taken down or removing a tag but not the photo itself.
  • Control who can see individual items of content such parts of the users' profiles or their  posts using a drop-down menu. Previously, that control was buried in a settings menu.

The social network is also adding some new features that don't relate to privacy control. It will let users:

  • Add location information to anything.
  • Add tags to photos of people who aren't their Facebook friends. However, the photo will not appear on the non-friend's profile unless the person who was tagged approves it.

Facebook has made changes to its privacy settings a number of times, including some in response to recommendations by Canada's privacy commissioner in 2009. At that time, the privacy commissioner warned Facebook against expanding the categories of user information made available to everyone on the internet and which users cannot control through privacy settings. She also recommended that Facebook make its default privacy settings for photo albums more restrictive.