Since the launch of Google’s new social networking site, Google+, Facebook has been very prompt in incorporating new features to keep its 750 million users.
Facebook has now announced a major revamp of how users can control privacy in the site, after repeated criticism of its privacy policies.
As in the concept of circles in Google+, users in Facebook can choose who can see their posts and what part of their profile they want to make visible to their friends and to the broader web.
“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 profile is getting some new tools that give you clearer, more consistent controls over how photos and posts get added to it, and who can see everything that lives there,” Chris Cox, vice president for product at Facebook, posted in the company blog.
It’s evident Facebook is trying to adapt to the advent of Google+, first by introducing video-calling, upgrading its gaming platform immediately after Google introduced games in Google+, and now by emulating its most distinctive feature: the circles that let users post materials to specific groups of contacts.
Google’s claim that circles put privacy control in the hands of users has been questioned, however. When a user posts something in a circle, the receiving member can repost it to his circle or make it totally public. When the receiver sees the post, he is notified with the circle the user wanted to share the post with, but if he can ignore that and repost it in his own circle. The originator can turn the reposting off, but only once the post is published. The circle concept aims at maintaining privacy, but content can easily leak out when circles are interconnected and overlapping.
Facebook must take care of such issues with its new privacy feature to exploit Google+ shortcomings.
Facebook dismissed the notion that its changes are triggered by any competition.
Previously whenever a user was tagged in a photo it would appear on the profile without asking for the user's consent. But now, “you can choose to use the new tool to approve or reject any photo or post you are tagged in before it's visible to anyone else on your profile,” Cox wrote.
Privacy advocates warned that the new tools did not deal with sharing of location. One Facebook user can still publish information about another user’s address without his or her consent.
Other privacy experts say that if users believe they have control over who sees what, they are more likely to share.
The new set of privacy options will roll out Thursday.