Facebook prepares trio of new privacy tweaks

Social network readies small interface changes to make it easier to customize per-post privacy settings, while acknowledging past privacy errors.

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Facebook will begin asking its users to think about privacy in case they haven't changed their settings recently. Facebook

MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Small Facebook changes can seem monumental when they affect user privacy, and so the company heavily researches even slight privacy adjustments before delivering them to its 1.2 billion users.

Three new privacy-related tweaks are in development, said two members of its privacy team. Raylene Yung and Michael Nowak, Facebook's privacy engineering manager and privacy product manager, respectively, told reporters gathered at its offices in Menlo Park, Calif., New York City, and Washington, D.C., that the company uses more than 4,000 daily surveys in 27 languages to help fine-tune its privacy interface.

One of the changes moves the "audience selector," the toggle that changes who can see your posts, on iOS from the lower right to the upper left. Another tweak the company is actively testing is a change that alters the audience selector on the desktop Web version of Facebook. Instead of showing all the options at once, it would display in a larger font only the two most popular -- Public and Friends -- with other choices behind a submenu.

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Facebook has moved its iOS "audience selector" following user feedback. Facebook

A third change is what Facebook is calling a "privacy checkup," a pop-up to ask people who haven't changed their privacy setting from Public in a while whether they want to leave it that way.

Some people may be seeing the changes in their apps and on the Facebook site already. The admittedly small changes were designed to respond to user concerns, something that Yung and Nowak said was important because Facebook conducts more than 80 trillion privacy checks per day, ensuring that your posts aren't accidentally shared to the wrong people.

They also said that Facebook has done a poor job of educating people about how it protects their privacy. As an example, they said that when a friend re-shares a photo of yours, it can only be seen by both of your mutual friends.

Facebook has a rocky relationship with privacy. In addition to earning the ire of its users for its confusing privacy policy and continuously changing privacy controls, the company is also subject to the terms of a 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in which it must receive explicit approval before sharing more users' privacy information than it already does.

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User feedback also led Facebook to change its desktop audience selector. Facebook

 

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