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:

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  • 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.

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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