Facebook is in the process of rolling out another set of changes to its privacy controls. While many have claimed these are the biggest and most positive changes Facebook has made in years, there’s a pretty mixed reaction.

There are some new features, sure, but it doesn’t seem like we’re given an incredible amount of options that we didn’t have before. In some cases, your information may actually be less private than it was before (as in… you have a public wall now, but I’ll get to that momentarily).

This is a clear effort to keep up with Google+, but I can’t help thinking that the Google+ privacy is still far simpler and more effective.

Let’s start by breaking down what Facebook’s Chris Cox mentions in his August 23 blog post.

“The main change is moving most of your controls from a settings page to being inline, right next to the posts, photos and tags they affect.”

The Difference: There’s no true difference here. All that’s changed is the look and location. You have the ability to say where you are (which takes the place of Facebook Places), whom you’re with (which you could always do by tagging that person, although this setting may make it easier on mobile devices), and who can see those updates (you’ve been able to change privacy settings on a per post basis for quite some time now, so while it’s getting a lot of attention, it’s not new).

Note: A minor but significant change to the per-post privacy is that once you alter those settings, they will not revert back to your default as they did before. You will have to go in and manually change them. This is important for people who customize their post privacy with different lists and people.

The new status update box.

Something that you’ll notice is gone is the “Add Link” option. Apparently we’re back to just pasting the addresses into the status box like before.

One new feature here that is really great is the ability to change the privacy of a post after you’ve posted it. No more copying, deleting, and pasting involved!

You can change the privacy settings on a post after it’s gone live by clicking on the wheel.

Note that “Public” replaces “Everyone” in privacy. Choosing “Public” will display the post to all Facebook users.

“Content on your profile, from your hometown to your latest photo album, will appear next to an icon and a drop-down menu. This inline menu lets you know who can see this part of your profile, and you can change it with one click.”

The Difference: You could customize all of this before, it’s just that you had to do so through the settings page. Now the settings are right there in front of you. So again, nothing really new, per se, but the process has been streamlined.

“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.”

The Difference: This feature is, for the most part, new. Whereas before, if you were tagged in a post or photo, you had to remove the tag yourself or ask to be untagged, now you can change your settings so that you can approve these tags before they will post. You can continue to do it the old way, but this request for approval is available to you as an option.

You also have the ability to approve or reject tags that other people add to your content. But again, all you had to do before was un-tag. Once more, this entire tagging move is about streamlining.

What is completely new is that you can now tag people you aren’t friends with to say that you are somewhere with them. When non-friends are tagged, though, they will have to approve the tag before it posts.

“[View Profile As…] is now on the top of your profile where it’s easier to access.”

The Difference: View Profile As… has always been a very valuable tool for Facebook users. You can use it to see what your public listing looks like, as well as how your profile appears to different friends based on privacy settings you have in place (Limited Profile, etc.). You used to access this tool on the Privacy Settings page and it was relatively straight foward. The only thing that’s changed here is that it’s moved to your profile page.

While viewing your own profile, you’ll see the “View As…” option in the top right corner.
You can enter a friend’s name to see how your profile appears to them. Note that, while the option to view your public listing is somewhat buried in the fine print, it’s available too.

Here Comes The Scary Part…

Note: You definitely want to take a look at your public listing on a regular basis. Not included anywhere in Facebook’s explanation is a sizable detail: regardless of your current privacy settings, you now have a public wall. I didn’t know this until I viewed my profile as the public sees it (which may explain why the public view is easy to miss).

You can click any icons that now show up below your profile picture in order to see what the public sees on those pages.

I never had Wall or Photos icons before on this page. I figured that, because I had the strictest privacy settings in place (not even all of my friends see most of my information), there would be nothing on my wall.

I was wrong.

Recent Activity now shows up there. Not ALL recent activity, and based on lots of time spent on Facebook’s Help Center yesterday, it seems as though the amount of information shared differs for each person based on privacy settings. My wall showed that I had recently changed my profile picture (which shouldn’t have been public as all of my pictures are private). Not scandalous, but it shouldn’t have been there. I didn’t want it there.

A quick visit to some profiles of people I know but am not friends with showed that profiles previously “empty” for me now allowed me to view some photo albums, read notes, see comments left on other people’s public status updates, and, in one case, read every wall post from that person’s friends since the new privacy settings took effect last week.

That’s some scary stuff when you consider that Facebook keeps saying these settings improve privacy.

There is no way to get rid of this public wall. The only thing you can do is double-check all of your privacy settings. This post shows you how to do that. The key is in limiting the view of old posts, so make sure you do that too. Once you’ve done all of that, though, keep monitoring what the public sees. If it’s recent activity, you can go to your wall and remove the update post, and then it won’t be visible (this is how I removed my “Recently Updated Profile Picture” notifications on my public wall). It’s a pain, and it’s definitely not streamlined. But it will have to do.

What do you think of the new privacy changes on Facebook? How do they compare/contrast with Google+?

Image Source: Wikipedia