Still Evil, But Not Completely
If you've checked Facebook this morning (you have) you will have noticed a shiny new notification in the top right of your screen. This mysterious notification was from Facebook itself, and clicking on it took you to an in-app page where the gang took you through their new set of privacy and advertising policies. If you didn't bother reading it (I won't judge, I nearly didn't either), you missed out on some good news. Following tweaks to Facebook's news feed which allowed us to choose more precisely who appeared and who remained absent on your homepage, Facebook is now updating its privacy settings.
For once, the news isn't scary or take-over-the-worldy. It's actually completely pro-user.
The first feature Facebook have been keen to tout is the 'Privacy Basics' tool. Facebook's privacy policies have always been surprisingly confusing; it took me - a proud, fully-functional member of the Millennial Generation - a fair few minutes to figure out how to block my Facebook wall from non-friends (some of the frapes on there are enough to get me fired from my current job, let alone stop me being hired by my would-be next one). With Privacy Basics, that will become a whole lot simpler.
It's also available in 36 languages, so no-one will miss out.
Once you've navigated to the Privacy Basics tool, you choose from one of three main options: "What Others See About You", "How Others Interact With You" or "What You See". Curious how to block a certain person from seeing your pictures and statuses? Click on the first subheading, navigate to the 'Posts' subheading and enjoy a beautifully designed slideshow explaining exactly how to take control of your timeline.
Considering the general public is still fairly tepid towards Mr. Zuckerberg and his privacy policies, this new wave of transparency is a breath of fresh air.
Privacy Basics is Facebook's newest attempt to convince its users how easy it is to take control of their content. In the past, they have created blog posts titled "privacy checkup", "reminder for people posting publicly" and "audience selectors". However, this is the most user-friendly update so far.
As well as introducing us all to Privacy Basics, Facebook helpfully gave us a highlight reel of a few other things that are going to change. They claimed the following: "The updates to our policies reflect the new products we've been working on to improve your Facebook experience. They also explain how our services work in a way that's easier to understand."
They then go on to detail updates to pretty much every aspect of Facebook, from location services ("in the future, if you decide to share where you are, you might see menus from restaurants nearby or updates from friends in the area") to updates on services such as Atlas, which have freaked us all out a bit in the past ("nothing is changing with these updates - we help advertisers reach people with relevant ads without telling them who you are").
In fact, the ugly issue of advertising received its own huge update in the post. Now, we're being given more control over the adverts we receive. Many people previously found it difficult to make ads behave when they accessed Facebook across a multitude of devices (in other words, pretty much all of us). Now, opting out of an advert on one device will stop you receiving it on every other one of your Facebook machines.
Furthermore, ad preferences, a service which allows us to tailor our own adverts (no doubt weighted ever-so-slightly by Atlas, but whatever) is available for the first time outside the US. When this all goes live, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the UK will have access to it.
The update hits on the 1st January 2015. Read about it in full in Facebook's official blog post.