Facebook wants you to understand its privacy features -- really

The social network isn't changing its privacy policies. But it is revising the way it explains them to new users.


Facebook's privacy policies are often criticized as overly confusing. So today the company is taking steps to clarify exactly how they work -- so you more easily know who has access to your data, for instance, what the default settings are, and how to select just who sees what you share.

Today's changes, which are rolling out across the globe, will only be seen by people signing up for the site for the first time. That seems limiting, but a Facebook spokesperson pointed out that existing users already have access to the same educational materials, which Facebook released more than a year ago.

What's different, at least for newbies, is that Facebook is making how things work much clearer and explicit. So now, for instance, when you upload a profile photo, a little lightbulb appears at the bottom warning you that profile pictures are public.


The company also added privacy controls so that people can select an audience for their high school, college, and employer as they sign up for Facebook. Before, you had to make these choices after entering all your information.

New users will get more guidance and education about the following topics:

  • Default settings
  • Selecting an audience for information shared on Timeline
  • Access to their data
  • How they interact with applications, games, and websites
  • How ads works on the site
  • Tagging people and things
  • Finding friends on Facebook through search and contact importers

In a statement about the new efforts, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan gave a shout out to the Irish government for helping out:

At Facebook, we're committed to making sure people understand how to control what they share and with whom. We're pleased to be rolling out more prominent and detailed privacy information to new users as soon as they begin the account sign-up process, and we appreciate the guidance we've received from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner's Office as we strive to highlight the many resources and tools we offer to help people control their information on Facebook.

Want the full rundown? Check out Facebook's blog post.

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