Facebook launches Privacy Checkup to educate its users

Facebook's privacy controls are so confusing that users need a feature just to navigate them

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
September 4, 2014
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Even before the huge celebrity photo hacking scandal this past weekend, there was plenty of discussion over privacy in the age of social media and the cloud. The simple fact is, and this became abundantly clear recently, is that most people have no idea what they are sharing, who they are sharing it with or how the technology works at all.

One of the biggest targets for years has been Facebook, and for good reason: the privacy settings on the site are notoriously confusing, and most people likely don't know how to change them even if they could understand them. The company obviously knows that this is a problem, and it is now offering a solution in the form of a Privacy Checkup, which it began to roll out on Thursday.

First announced back in May, the Privacy Checkup does not add any new controls or options, but it will allow users who are not familiar with Facebook's privacy controls to review their current settings.

"We know you come to Facebook to connect with friends, not with us. But we also know how important it is to be in control of what you share and who you share with," Paddy Underwood, Facebook product manager Paddy Underwood, wrote in a post.

The information that users will be able to review includes seeing who their posts are being shared with. They will also be able to update the permissions on each apps that they have logged into with Facebook. And, finally, it guides the user in a review who can see key pieces of information on their profile, and helps them edit that. 

A Privacy Checkup prompt will pop up for all users in the new few days. It can also be accessed at any time simply by clicking Privacy Shortcuts under the lock symbol on the top right hand part of the page. 

One thing that should be noted is that, currently, the feature only seems to be available on Facebook's desktop version. Given how quickly users are migrating toward mobile (the company had over one billion monthly active on users on mobile this past quarter) it would not be surprising to see it migrate to the other platform eventually. 

With the larger conversation regarding privacy on the Internet, and not sharing things that we don't really want seen, Facebook has a good reason to be doing this: if someone does accidentally leak something of their that they wanted to remain private, the company can now say that it really did try to inform its users about how to stop that from happening. 

The next step, of course, would be simplifying the controls so that users did not need a walkthrough to navigate them, but this is a good first step.

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