Dec. 12, 2012 -- Facebook users know the unfortunate drill.
In an effort to block a friend or a list of friends from seeing your tagged images or even just limit someone from seeing a Timeline post, you go looking for the correct privacy settings. Ten minutes later -- no exaggeration for many -- you're lucky if you've pinpointed the correct settings area never mind having made the change.
Facebook's privacy setting menus have been like a maze -- you've never know where to go and it's easy to get lost.
But Facebook is finally attempting to change that. The social network is announcing today a series of changes to its privacy controls. They will start rolling out to all Facebook users before the end of the month.
There it is!
One of the biggest changes is to the discoverability of the privacy control menu. No longer do you have to go to a small, buried menu setting to find the privacy setting menu.
Now there will be a privacy shortcuts menu with a small lock icon added right to the upper right hand corner of every Facebook page. Click on that and you will see a larger box with simple to understand privacy options, including "Who can see my stuff?" and "Who can contact me?"
"This new menu has the key settings that are the most relevant and important to people. The idea is that privacy follows you around on Facebook," Nicky Jackson Colaco, Facebook manager of privacy & safety, told ABC News. "We want it to feel like something that is with you all the time," Colaco added. Right from the shortcuts menu you can also now easily search the Facebook Privacy help center.
Colaco said Facebook is trying to get rid of the fine print throughout the site. Navigation has been improved on the left side to make it easier to find settings. While there are some good changes, some important settings are still buried, including the tool that lets you view your account as another person. (That's still easiest to get to by going to your Timeline, clicking the arrow next to the Activity Log button and selecting "View As...")
But when you do find that tool you might start seeing some educational messages underneath it. There and some other places on Facebook will have some messages about your hiding or untagging actions.
"We think that a key piece is the difference between what I choose to put on my Timeline and what might be shared on other parts of Facebook," Colaco said. Hiding a photo on your Timeline doesn't mean you have hid that photo from everyone on Facebook.
With that in mind, small pop ups will show up now when you hide something from your Newsfeed. The message will alert users that the photo or message is still viewable on other parts of Facebook.
"Your timeline is different than other places on Facebook. We really want users to know that," Colaco said.
Easier to Untag
Of course, the biggest concern around those issues is photo untagging. But Facebook is now making that easier too with an improved setting in Activity Log.
You can now see all the photos you are tagged in and easily untag yourself in multiple photos with a new Request and Remove tool. You can also filter photos in a number of different ways – photos you have hidden from your Timeline but are still tagged, photos that are public, etc.
If you have untagged yourself, but want the photo removed from Facebook, there's a new set of tools to contact the owner of the photo with preset messages of why you want it removed. Those options include "It makes me sad," etc.
An Improved Maze
Facebook plans to release the new settings to users before the end of the year on the Facebook website – they won't be coming to mobile applications just yet.
It's certainly a big improvement over where Facebook had been, but there's still a ways to go, especially in terms of the fine print and buried settings. When asked about that, Colaco said: "Privacy is something we never stop thinking about. We will keep iterating and improve where we can."
But at least the maze is about to be drastically improved.