Facebook forces users to be searchable, lets them ask friends to remove photos

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When the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘privacy’ are used in the same sentence, it’s generally not the start of a conversation which will portray Zuckerberg’s baby in a good light. But the latest set of updates from the hoodied one’s social network include some positives too. It seems Facebook is finally implementing some changes to help you tell the friend who posted that awkward photo of you to take it down and have more of a say over what apps can do with your account… but it’s also taking away the option to hide your name from search results.

According to the billion-strong social network, it’s implementing a number of redesigned controls in a bid to make it easier to understand what you’re sharing with whom. Here are a few of the changes, which it will continue to roll out in the last few weeks of the year:

The death of the ‘who can see my timeline by name’ function:

Facebook is basically killing off the option to hide from unwanted friend requests by disabling the ability to be found if users type your name into the search bar. It says that it is retiring the product because it is imperfect and the nature of Facebook has changed over time and made it unnecessary, saying “the setting was very limited in scope, and didn’t prevent people from finding others in many other ways across the site”.

It has been removed from the profiles of users who didn’t enable the function for a while, but now it will cease to exist for those who are actually using it too — although Facebook says this is a very “small percentage” of its massive user base.

Request and removal tools:

Facebook untag settings

You’ll soon be given more options about what to do when you’re tagged in photos you don’t want to be associated with. Users will be given new options in their updated Activity logs to select multiple photos and ask for them to be taken down, and to include a message about why they want their friend to remove them. Of course, you could always just message your friend and ask for them to delete the snapshot, but a more formalised system could give your pleas more authority.

Privacy shortcuts:

Previously, if you wanted to change a privacy setting on Facebook, you had to click on a drop down arrow in the navigation bar, click ‘privacy settings’ and then go to the specific area you were interested in changing from the central privacy information page. Now, Facebook’s simplified the process a bit in plainer language: the settings will drop down from the navigation bar at the top of the page, and offer three categories: “Who can see my stuff?”, “Who can contact me?” and “How do I stop someone from bothering me?”. Nice and easy.

App permissions:

Facebook apps had this annoying tendency to want to get your permission to post to your wall before they’d let you use them. Well, they still do, but Facebook’s changed have separated the process: now apps will ask for permission to access your profile and other information in one screen, and the ability to post to Facebook on your behalf in another screen — with the option to skip or okay the second option. The changes won’t apply to all apps though: for example, games will keep the old settings.

Contextual insights:

Facebook context notice

In case you weren’t aware of what your action to remove items actually does, Facebook has expanded the amount of helpful comments around the site to remind you how hard it is to really wipe something from Facebook. The contextual notices tell you that, although you may have removed something from your timeline (for example), it is still visible in search, other timelines and newsfeeds. Darn it.

Images: Facebook.

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