Facebook New Privacy Setting Changes: an e-Safety perspective

In the next few days Facebook will be rolling out changes to its privacy settings options to all users. Facebook state that they believe the new privacy settings will offer more control to users and will make managing personal data more visual and straightforward.

One of the key changes for users to be aware of is that Facebook has changed some of the appearance, terminology and language that it uses. The previous option in the Privacy Settings “Everyone” is going to be replaced with “Public”. This is to clarify the fact to users that any content shared publicly can be seen by anyone on the internet. 

Some of these changes have some new benefits to users and will help to safeguard young people and professionals online. However these changes also need to be carefully considered with an e-Safety perspective to ensure that all users are fully aware of the options and choices provided by the new settings, as well as the potential impact to online privacy and safety.

 New Changes to Profiles on Facebook

Facebook profiles are getting new tools that give users clearer, more consistent controls over how photos and posts are shared and who can see content.

New Inline Profile Controls

Content on Facebook profile, including work, hometown and photo albums, will appear next to an icon and a drop-down menu. This inline menu lets users know who can see this part of the profile, and it can be changed with one click.

e-Safety impact: This change will be useful to help young people consider their digital footprint and restrict access to different contacts. It will also be useful to help professionals understand and maintain a professional role online.

For more detail on the profile settings visit: http://www.facebook.com/about/control

New Profile and Content Review Tools

With the old privacy controls any photos or content users are tagged in would show up on their profile as soon as they were tagged, meaning users had limited control over who tagged them in images or posts. With the new settings, users can choose to use a new tool to approve or reject any photo or post they are tagged in before it’s visible to anyone else on their profile. Also with the old settings anyone who could see photos or posts could add tags to them.  With the new controls, users will have the option to review and approve or reject any tag someone tries to add to any photos and posts.

e-Safety perspective: Frequent complaints to the e-Safety Officer are not about the content users themselves have uploaded, rather the content their friends choose to share without consent. This new feature will give users more control about who can see content they are tagged in by their friends which should empower users to stay safe and be more aware of their own online persona.

Highlighted “View Profile As…” Option

For a while Facebook has had a useful tool which enables users to check how their profile looked to other users but this tool was hidden and many users didn’t know how to find it. This tool is now on the top of the profile and is easier to access.

 e-Safety perspective: This will help users to be more aware of their digital footprint and how different friends can view the content they share.


New Changes to Sharing Content on Facebook

In addition to the profile changes detailed above, it will now be more straightforward to understand and control who can see posts shared on Facebook. Facebook have broadening the functionality of the sharing tool and made changes to make the settings earier to use visually.

 New Inline controls

The control for who can see each post will be inline with the post itself on the profile page. There is now an icon and label to help make it easier to understand and decide what content to share with different audiences. Initally this will include “Public”, “Friends” or “Customise”. When someone is tagged, the audience label will automatically update to show that the person tagged and their friends can see the post. The dropdown menu will apparently be expanded over time to include smaller groups of people such as co-workers, Friend Lists and Groups.

For a guided tour of these new controls, go here: http://www.facebook.com/about/sharing

e-Safety perspective: This will enable users to be more aware of how public the information they choose to post is and hopefully will encourage users to be more mindful about the content they share. Many users (especially young people) were not aware that the option of “everyone” meant content was shared with anyone who had access to the internet. Young people can also choose to share certain posts or photos with different groups of friends or online contacts. This could be very useful for users who have hundreds of friends but only know a limited amount in the real-world, as they can choose what content they share with different audiences in real-time and in a more user-friendly way. One possible risk is that it will now be easier for users to choose to hide unsuitable or inappropriate content from certain contacts e.g. from their parents (for young people) or from their colleagues (for professionals) which could be a concern in some cases.

Change Sharing Options For Content After You Post

With the old settings, once a user posted a status update they then couldn’t change who could see it.  Now users will be able to change who can see any post after the fact. If something is accidentally posted to the wrong group, or a user changes their mind, they can adjust it with the inline control at any time.

e-Safety impact: This will help strengthen users understanding of digital footprints and how the content we post nline leaves an imprint about us. It could potentially be misused to cyberbully other users by posting content to annoy, upset or offend other users and then changing it so only a limited number of people can view the content. It is important that all users understand they need to take copies of cyberbullying content (either as a print screen or printing the content out) to ensure it can be used as evidence, even if the content is later removed or hidden.

New Options to Tag Locations in Posts

With the old settings, users could only “check in” to locations using the Places feature on a smart phone. Now users can add location to anything from anywhere, regardless of what device they are using, or whether it is a status update, photo or Wall post. Users can tag a location from a web browser on a computer or via a mobile app. Users can also tag locations to photo albums or individual photos or videos. Users can choose not to add location at all and can switch the feature off.  As a part of these changes, the mobile Places feature is being removed, and so are the settings associated with it. If users are still using this feature, the “Friends can check me in” setting will still apply, and users own “checkins” will be seen by the audience selected in their default privacy setting.

 More details about how location works and the settings affected can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/about/location

 e-Safety perspective: This is an especially important feature to discuss with young people as they may not have been able to share their excat location previously if they did not have access to a smart phone, although it is important to remember that they have always been able to share their location via status updates, chat and private messages. Young people need to be fully aware of the possible risk of sharing a location publicly and should be shown how to opt out of location sharing or  shown how to share their location with trusted real-life friends only. This new change may have a higher risk for looked after or adopted children who may have no contact orders or restrictions in place, so it is important that parents/carers discuss this with them.

Users can Tag Anyone on Facebook

With the old privacy setting options, users could only tag someone if they were friends with them, and they could only tag a Page if they had liked it. Users can now add tags of friends or anyone else on Facebook even if they are not friends. If users are tagged by someone who they are not friends with the tag won’t appear on their profile unless they review and approve the post.

e-Safety perspective: This could mean that young people or professionals could be tagged by people they don’t know or by people they don’t wish to be friends with e.g. a teacher could be tagged by a pupil at an unsuitable location. However this risk is greatly reduced as users need to review and approve tags which are made by users they are not friends with before they appear on their profile.

New Tools to Remove Tags or Content

With the new settings, users’ options for removing tags or content on Facebook are presented more clearly. Users will have the option to confirm or remove their identity before a tag appears on their profile. Enabling this option can be found in the “Manage How Tags Work” section of the privacy settings as “Profile” or “Tag” Review. Users can choose to set their privacy settings so that friends can tag them without approval or can have more control as detailed below.

 Once Tag/Profile Review is enabled, users will be given options every time they are tagged in a photo or post on Facebook. If users don’t want to accept or confirm a tag request then the options are:

  • Remove the tag. The post or content will still be on Facebook, but it will no longer be linked to your profile.
  • Send the owner of the post a message, asking them to remove the post or content from Facebook.
  • Report a post to Facebook. If the post is abusive, it will be removed.
  • Block the owner of the post. All tags from this person will be removed, and you will no longer be able to see or interact with each other on Facebook.

More details on tagging can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/about/tagging

e-Safety perspective: It is important that all users are aware that this won’t affect whether their friends can add a photo of them, only whether their name is attached to it. The owner of the content should be contacted to remove unwanted photos or content, or if the content is abusive it should be reported to Facebook for removal. This feature could help to reduce cyberbullying incidents. It will also make it harder for people to find any inappropriate or unwanted pictures or content that users might have been tagged in. Users now have more control over what is shared about them by their friends which is brilliant, but they need to enable the review option as it might not be a defualt option. Some users may not like to approval every comment or photo they are tagged in, so some usersmay choose not to use the function at all.


The new privacy settings will start to roll out to all users over the next few days. When the settings are live on the account, users will see a prompt for a tour that walks them through these new features from their homepage when they login. Current Facebook users will retain their current default sharing settings. The first time any new Facebook member (i.e. any users who sign up after the new settings are in place) shares a piece of content on their profile, their default suggestion will be public (for users who have registered as over 18) unless they select another option (e.g. Friends), which will then become their default setting in future.

Also New: Facebook Security Guide

Users can download a new free guide to help improve awareness about Facebook Security:  “OwnYourSpace: A Guide to Facebook Security.The guide will help users to understand  how to protect your Facebook account, avoid scammers andconfigure advanced security settings. Users will also be aware of secuirty features such as how to use one-time passwords, enable secure browsing and track account activity. The guide will also help users to understand what motivates account thieves and malware pushers and what they should if an account is hijacked or hacked.


e-Safety Perspective Summary

Overall the new privacy settings can be seen as a really positive step forward to helping Facebook users become more aware of how much information they are sharing  online and have more control over content shared about them.

Parents/carers of Facebook users are strongly recommended to read through the new privacy features and discuss the possible impact of these changes with their child. Professionals need to understand the impact the new privacy changes may have to their profile and the possible implications for them both professionally and personally. Schools will need to be aware of these changes in respect to their policies and whole-school approach to cyberbullying as it will become even more important that users save evidence of cyberbullying. 

Many of the new features will offer users more control and clarity over what is shared on Facebook and with whom (such as more control over tagging and the chnage in terminology to “public” rather than “everyone”). Some of the new changes could be misunderstood by users and could expose children and adults to new online risks (such as the addition of location sharing to web browsers, the new default setting of public for new users and the ability to tag people who you are not friends with) so it is important that users fully understand the implications (both positives and risks) of these new features.

As yet Facebook have not fully stated how all of these changes will affect “minors” (users who are registered as being under 18) other than to say that minors will not have the option to share content publicly and they will be limited to sharing with either “friends of friends” of “friends”. However, this will rely on the fact that the user has given a correct date of birth when the registered for their profile. With an estimated 43% of 7 – 12 year olds in the UK being active on Facebook (and therefore having lied about their age) it is possible than some of them may be given the “public” option sooner rather than later.

This blog post will be updated as the changes and implications of the new settings become more apparent.


Last update 24.8.11 @14:00

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