Facebook Really Needs More Sophisticated Privacy Controls [Opinion]

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facebook privacyFacebook have been under pressure in recent years from all angles to make privacy options simpler and quick to change. They’ve actually done quite well at this, considering how complicated the Facebook privacy system is overall. However, for those of us who understand the privacy controls well, there are a number of things Facebook could implement to improve the effect of privacy controls.

When you’re trying to balance workmates, friends and family, there are a number of important Facebook privacy concerns to keep in mind. Most regular Internet users are fairly good at balancing these needs, protecting privacy where possible and even separating their social network usage into different accounts for different audiences. But if social networks want us to use just one account for all audiences, they need to offer sophisticated privacy controls for us to manage our accounts. Here’s an important privacy option Facebook should implement.

Current Situation: One Tag Privacy Setting For All Posts

At the moment, Facebook allows you to limit who can see posts and photos you’re tagged in on your timeline using friends lists (if you go into Privacy > How Tags Work and change your maximum visibility – Read the Facebook Privacy Guide to learn about friends lists). It also allows you to veto the tags before other people see them. So most sensible people use a combination of these tools to ensure workmates and grandparents don’t see drunken party photos.

But this is still very limited, since that tag privacy setting is set just once for everything you’re tagged in, including photos and location posts (once enabled). Any other privacy controls on those photos are controlled by other people.

facebook privacy

Example: Consider This Situation

Consider these circumstances:

  • Your acquaintance tags you as being with them at a new restaurant. You’re happy for all your friends to see this as it’s nowhere near your house and you feel that it’s safe. You set your tag privacy to “Friends“.
  • Your best friend tags you as being with them at your favourite café. You don’t want to be stalked by acquaintances, so you now decide to set your tag privacy to “(Close Friends OR Family OR Workmates) NOT (Acquaintances)“.
  • Your aunt tags a photo of you as a kid. You’d like your relatives and a few good friends to be able to see those photos, but not your workmates or acquaintances. She’s set her album to ‘Friends-Only‘ and ‘Friends of Anyone Tagged’. You now need to set your tag privacy to a custom-made setting of “(Close Friends OR Family) NOT (Acquaintances OR Workmates)” in order to maintain the privacy you want. Even if she had more private settings in place, you would probably set your tag privacy like this just to be sure.
  • Your high school friends tag photos of you at parties as a teenager. You’d be happy for your high school friends and current good friends to see these photos, but no-one else. You now need to further restrict your tag privacy to “(Close Friends) NOT (Family OR Acquaintances OR Workmates)”, basically omitting the family. And this now applies to ALL of the above posts.

facebook privacy settings

The Problem: One Setting Doesn’t Fit All

This means the only relatives who will see your aunt’s photo are the ones who are Facebook friends with your aunt. The random restaurant tagging by your acquaintance can now only be seen by the restricted selection of people, too. Thanks to the restrictions desired for certain types of photos, anything you’re tagged in needs to be restricted in this way. The only alternative is to veto all photos and ensure these photos are never tagged in the first place. Facebook has cornered us into restricting everything or vetoing everything and limiting what we approve.

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facebook privacy

Solution: Let Us Control Who Can See Posts & Photos We’re Tagged In According To Whose Post It Is

Now, if Facebook would allow more sophisticated options you could set rules like this:

  • When someone in my ‘Family‘ group tags a photo or post of me, show it to “(Close Friends OR Family) NOT (Acquaintances OR Workmates)“.
  • When someone in my ‘School Friends‘ group tags a photo or post or me, show it to “(Close Friends OR School Friends) NOT (Family OR Acquaintances OR Workmates)
  • When someone in my ‘Workmates‘ group tags a photo or post of me, show it to “Friends“.

Obviously, simple controls need to be maintained also so that everyone can find a solution for them which is easy to understand. It’s no wonder so many people have multiple Facebook profiles, despite it being against Facebook’s policy. If they want people to follow the rules, they need to make it possible for users to control their privacy in as many ways as possible.

Which privacy control do you think Facebook should improve? How should it be changed?

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Comments (23)
  • Unbelievableifteqar

    Commenting on internet is good but do something that never before any body has done, i read your most of the blogs, you look deep into things, make it to solve it on a broad level. thanks.

  • Antonio Velázquez

    yep… i hate facebook for this… i had a discussion over this topic with a friend, and he got to an interesting point… Google + offers easy and private sharing, and Facebook can match with that… so, instead, Facebook’s move is to make easier the work of a stalker… the timeline, the “recent news” over the chat, and the poor privacy settings all are there for one reason: so you can stalk without limits that person you’re interested on… wheather it’s a girl you like, your son, or even your own girlfriend, you want to know what he/she is doing and with who, and that is the blindpoint on G+… so facebook takes advantage of it…

    • Antonio Velázquez

      so the disadvantage is actually the advantage… ’cause the poor private settings let me (for example) stalk my gilfriend, and see if any other guy posts on her Wall.. eventually, this would be the only reason to keep using Facebook instead of G+

      Don’t take me wrong, it’s an examplie, but let’s admit it… we all have “spied” on someone, at least once… and facebook knows it, and that’s why they will never change… 

      however, i think that G+ is way better, because “spying” (whatever the reason) is just wrong…

    • Abhilasha

      I just made these, I couldn’t rsiset substituting custard powder for cornflour and they are just wonderful I like the fact they are so light and small, the problem with most Yo-Yos/melting moments is that cafes and bakeries make them waay too big so you end up with a chalky brick type device which although it is delicious is hard to eat with dignity and far too much. This is one of the only biscuit press recipes I have used that has worked with out many hours of frustrating tweaking. Good work. Mine are resting in a tin to be devoured tomorrow and aside from being rather more yellow, do look and taste just like yours look and you have decribed!

    • Angela Alcorn

      You know, this is probably exactly what Facebook are thinking. You’re right.

  • tastyjuice

    Individual privacy settings for each individual post/photo/tags would be awesome!

    • Angela Alcorn

      Quite. And for those who think it’s already too hard, the possibility to leave it at some default level of privacy.

  • Kvmhjn

    if a person is that afraid of his acquaintances ,simpy don’t add them . your bio   speaks for yourself-you just MESS UP .

    • Angela Alcorn

      There’s no fear – just a need to offer different things to different acquaintances. Facebook could do far better by us, is all.

  • Anonymous

    The only problem is if you make the privacy controls more sophisticated, then people are going to complain that they are too complicated! The controls had to be simplified because idiots couldn’t seem to work it out.

    I think they’re fine as they are, you can change the privacy controls for individual albums (and photos too I think, not certain). And you have Tag Review to let you manually approve what is shown on your profile.

    If a certain piece of content is really that much of a problem that you can’t control its visibility to be precisely what you want it to be, then just delete it. It can’t be that vital can it?

    • Angela Alcorn

      They definitely have to maintain simple privacy options, for sure. But I don’t think it’s wrong to also offer advanced options for those that can handle it.

      Tag review is all-or-nothing. I can either let ALL my family, friends and workmates see the photo or NO-ONE.

      The point is really that if Facebook want to encourage more tagging, they’d better let us decide who can see it once it’s tagged, just as we can for our own photos. Otherwise, people are just going to lock down their profiles overly in order to cover all the possibilities.

    • Schivu

      Stumbled across your blog, while mhcnuing on a melting moment. It felt like rummaging through a treasure chest, with nooks and crannies full of different little pieces. I think I will have a break from study tomorrow and put your recipe to the test. I have dubbed my friend the queen of melting moments and have an urge to claim the title off her. Your recipe may be the secret.There was one thing I was curious about, you work in an office what do you do you just seemed a little bit artsy and retro (judging by your kitchen utensils) and I thought it odd place for you to be. On second thoughts, that might be a bit personal but I will leave it out there one of the many wonderful things about freedom is that you don’t have to answer nosey guests, who visit your blog 80)

    • Anonymous

      I suppose one way to handle Tag Review would be to allow you to set the privacy of the tag before you approve it onto your timeline. And also allow a default tag privacy setting as well.

    • Angela Alcorn

      That would be ideal!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.