Facebook versus Google+ : Changing Privacy Options

Posted: August 24, 2011 in Brand management, Social Media
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The rivalry between Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. has a new face: privacy.Facebook has finally introduced privacy changes to its user functionality. From now on, users can manage who can see information about them by viewing content on their profile page, and approving any images they are tagged in before it is visible to their friends. So users can avoid being tagged in undesirable photos. With this step, Facebook is one step closer to Google+’s.

With the new privacy changes, the company plans to move a number of privacy controls—which previously required navigating to a separate settings page—to users’ homes pages and profile pages, next to where they view and post content.

Since many users have hundreds or thousands of friends, Facebook and other social networks have at times been criticized for designs that lead users to inadvertently share information with a wider audience than they intended. However, this new step seems to solve the main problems that get a lot of stick.

Facebook’s vice president for product, Chris Cox said that making privacy controls easier is “absolutely critical” to Facebook’s future success. In his post on Facebook, he claimed that users will now be able to command who among their friends list can see their postings. So users will be able to create smaller groups of people from their main friends list.

The function is similar to Google+’s Circles feature, which allows users to manage their contacts adding them to various lists, or build so-called “circles” of audiences for their content. This feature promises to let users “share just the right things with just the right people.”

However, Mr. Cox said the changes weren’t made in response to Google since his company had been working on the changes for the last six months based on longstanding user requests. “We are launching this now because it is ready,” he said.

According to the WSJ, A Google spokeswoman said in a statement: “We welcome Facebook’s efforts to give users more control over their privacy because it helps to improve the overall web experience. With Google+ we’re creating a new and different approach to make sharing on the Web more like sharing in the real world.”

Facebook’s privacy changes include adding icons to individual posts so that users can quickly understand and control who gets to see each post. Users can change their minds about who has permission to see a post after it has gone out. Facebook is also renaming the sharing option it formerly called “everyone” to “public.”

And, addressing a longstanding gripe by some privacy advocates, Facebook users will now be able to decide whether their names can be attached as a so-called tag to a photo before it is circulated. Although users won’t have the power to delete the photos posted by another user they don’t like, they will be able to suggest other user that it should be removed in a quick and appropriate way.

The moves are somewhat of a turnabout for Facebook, which in past years appeared to encourage its users to share information with as many of their friends as possible.

“This is Facebook competing on privacy,” said Justin Brookman, the director of the consumer privacy project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, who was consulted by Facebook on the newest changes. “People responded well to Google’s very controlled, granular settings,” he said.


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