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Social Media: Facebook Privacy Update

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The new changes are aimed at making Facebook privacy settings easier to understand and above all more visible. (Photo: Andrzej Pobiedziski)
The new changes are aimed at making Facebook privacy settings easier to understand and above all more visible. (Photo: Andrzej Pobiedziski)


  • Changes aimed at making settings more visible and easier to understand
  • Privacy updates launched in response to Google+
  • Governments and academics concerned Facebook’s facial recognition system could be violating privacy laws

Facebook has once again tweaked its privacy settings, this time introducing a range of changes that are designed to allow users greater control over how they share their personal information on the world's number one social networking site.

Most of the changes are aimed at making Facebook privacy settings easier to understand and above all more visible. They include such features as Inline Controls, which place the options allowing users to decide who sees each post right next to the post itself; and Profile Tag Review and Content Tag Review options, which give users the possibility to, respectively, approve any content in which they are tagged by others before it appears in their own profile, and approve any tags left by others on the content they publish.

In the past, as Facebook itself admits in the blog post announcing the updates, many of these options already existed but were buried several pages away from the entry page in a way that made them difficult, if not impossible, to find.

Responding to Google+

It is not surprising that Facebook has now taken these steps to provide users with more fine-grained control over what content appears where. When rival social networking site Google+ was launched in June, one of the points it garnered praise for was its Circles feature, which lets users split up their contacts into groups such as Friends, Family, Acquaintances and Colleagues, and then specify on a post-by-post basis which group or groups can view every single piece of content they share.

While Facebook, with its 750 million active users, is still some way ahead of its recently launched competitor, Google+ managed to reach 25 million members in its first month and is already growing at a rate of more than 1 million new members each day.

Governments, Academics Concerned

How Facebook handles privacy is nonetheless a point on which the social networking site sees recurring criticism from users, and governments and academics are now also beginning to express concern.

The Hamburg privacy commissioner recently accused Facebook of breaking German privacy laws by collecting biometric data about users to power its new facial recognition system, which suggests the identity of friends to users while they are tagging photos.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, meanwhile, had some success in linking anonymous photos on the Match.com dating website with the identity of Facebook users, and were even able to guess Social Security numbers using the same facial recognition system.

Key Statistics – Facebook Social Media 2011

  • Facebook has twice as many active users (750 million) as the population of the United States. (source: Socialnomics.net)
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world. (source: Socialnomics.net)
  • This year, 132.5 million people in the United State will use Facebook, with this number set to rise to 152.1 million over the next two years. (source: banking.com)
  • In any given day, 50% of active Facebook users log on at least once. (source: Facebook.com)
  • Each month, users spend over 700 billion minutes on Facebook. (source: Facebook.com)
  • The average number of friends for a Facebook user is 130. (source: Facebook.com)
  • Facebook is translated in 70 different languages. (source: Facebook.com)

By S. W. Mudie for
S. W. Mudie has been working in and writing about technology for over ten years. Originally from Scotland, he now lives in Paris, France.

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