Facebook Privacy Changes Go Live; Beware of "Everyone"

As promised, Facebook has begun rolling out new privacy options to its 350 million users.Watch out for the "Everyone" setting.

On Wednesday morning, users began seeing a message offering a new, simplified privacy settings page and the ability to set specific options for every post made to Facebook.

The changes, first announced this summer, again promised last week, and available today, give users much tighter control of who sees what, down to the individual reader, if desired.

Especially important is the new "everyone" setting that determines whether a Facebook post will be seen on other services, such as in Google search results.

Other settings include "only friends" and "friends of friends." A "customize" option allows users to show or hide a post from specific individuals or user-created lists.

The options are available by clicking on a new "lock" icon that appears next to the "share" button when a Facebook user updates their status. Any setting may be chosen as a default and the default option may be changed as desired.

Facebook also today updated its privacy policy to reflect the changes.

Here is how the "Everyone" setting is described (this may be important to you):

"Information set to 'everyone' is publicly available information, may be accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into Facebook), is subject to indexing by third party search engines, may be associated with you outside of Facebook (such as when you visit other sites on the internet), and may be imported and exported by us and others without privacy limitations.

"The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to 'everyone.' You can review and change the default settings in your privacy settings. If you delete 'everyone' content that you posted on Facebook, we will remove it from your Facebook profile, but have no control over its use outside of Facebook."

As of 8 a.m. Pacific Time today, not all users have been upgraded to the new privacy options. Others were upgraded months ago when Facebook began testing the new options.

My take: Facebook should add even more granularity to the "everyone" option, giving users the ability to opt-in or out of their posts being shared with specific services. It should also include links making it easier to for users to learn what the settings mean.

The description quoted above is complete and reasonably understandable, but is not easy to find. Not difficult, but it requires some looking.

I strongly encourage all Facebook users to visit all the privacy settings pages, especially those for applications and advertising, and make desired changes.

Facebook seems candid about what it does, provides privacy options for users, but it is still up to the individual to make the changes they desire. Not surprisingly, some Facebook defaults are more "open" than many users might desire.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

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