Facebook Revamps Privacy Settings, Overhauls 'Tagging' Feature

Some of the biggest privacy changes the social networking giant is rolling out include beefed up geo-location settings, revamped tagging features and inline profile controls.

Specifically, Facebook said that the newly enhanced location settings allow users to slap a location tag to just about anything from status updates to Wall posts, from just about anywhere, regardless of device.

As before, the geo-location information will stream right into Facebook’s News Feed, like any other status update or post.

Meanwhile, Facebook added that it is simultaneously phasing out the mobile-only Places feature, which previously only allowed users carrying a smart phone to announce their location by “checking-in” at various businesses they frequented.

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The updated location features will be gradually rolled out over the next few weeks starting Thursday, but will be turned off by default. Users, however, can opt-in to activate the location feature in order to broadcast their whereabouts from moment to moment.

Facebook also unveiled a new profile tag review, which gives users the option of approving or rejecting tagged photos before automatically appearing on their profile.

“Your profile should feel like your home on the web - you should never feel like stuff appears there that you don't want, and you should never wonder who sees what's there,” said Chris Cox, Facebook vice president of products, in a blog post Tuesday. “The profile is getting some new tools that give you clearer, more consistent controls over how photos and posts get added to it, and who can see everything that lives there.

Previously, photos would automatically show up on the user’s profile as soon they were tagged. “One of the top requests we’ve heard is for the ability to approve the tags before they show upon your profile,” Cox added.

Similarly, the revamped privacy settings include a content tag review, which also gives users the option of approving or rejecting a tag that another user attempts to add to their photos and posts after they’re published.

Conversely, the tweaks give users the ability to more effectively remove tags or content from Facebook, with the options of removing them from the profile entirely, removing the tag itself, messaging the photo owner or tagger, and request that the content get taken down.

Meanwhile, Graham Cluley, Sophos senior technology consultant, contended that Facebook’s overhauled tagging feature fell short of preventing an unwanted photo from being published or really addressing privacy issues related to tagging.

“It’s our belief that many Facebook users would like the ability to block anyone from tagging them in photographs without their express permission, rather than simply blocking the photo from appearing on their profile,” Cluley said in a blog post. “Instead, you’ll probably find yourself continuing to request that people untag you from photographs, and kindly learn not to do it anymore in future.”

In addition, Facebook introduced in-line profile controls, which position content on a users profile next to an icon and a drop-down menu that lets users know who can see that particular part of their Facebook page.

Facebook says the in-line privacy controls provide a simpler, more streamlined Settings page that moves privacy setting options directly inline.

Finally, Facebook also added one small, clarifying tweak that changed the privacy setting labeled “everyone,” which allows the entire Internet to access profile content and images, to be deemed as “public.”