Facebook changes privacy settings again - this time to scale back sharing?

Facebook’s changing its default privacy settings again, but this time they’re taking a step that could scale back what you share.

The social network said Thursday that it is changing the default setting for new users so their posts are shared only with “Friends,” instead of the “Public.”

That’s a reversal from the previous default setting, which for most users was automatically set to “Public” unless they took the initiative to scale it back. Users can always change their settings back and forth between “Friends” or “Public” or a number of other options.

“We recognize that it is much worse for someone to accidentally share with everyone when they actually meant to share just with friends, compared with the reverse,” the company said in a statement. “While some people want to post to everyone, others have told us that they are more comfortable sharing with a smaller group, like just their friends.”

Facebook also said it’s rolling out an expanded “privacy check-up” feature, in which an animated dinosaur leads users through a quick tutorial on the settings they are using.

The moves are another sign that Facebook recognizes it needs to reassure users and make them comfortable with sharing on the social network, as we’ve written about before.

Of course, the moves also come as the company is introducing new ways for users to share more information: Facebook recently launched a new way to keep track of friends who are in physical proximity, and this week it announced a way to automatically post the songs or TV programs that users are hearing or watching. But both new features are designed to let users decide when they want to use them and control how they are used.

Facebook has been blasted by privacy watchdogs in the past – numerous times, in fact.  But the company knows it needs users to trust it with their information, if it wants to continue building a multibillion-dollar business based on using some of that information to deliver relevant ads.

(Screen image courtesy of Facebook) 

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (325 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.