Facebook's Privacy Evolution Crawls Another Step Out Of The Ooze

If Facebook's privacy controls leave you scratching your head, you're in good company -- or a lot of company, anyhow. Lucky for the befuddled among us -- present company included -- Facebook is announcing a campaign to educate members about, and streamline their access to, privacy options.

The newest wave of tweaks isn't a full-fledged privacy revolution -- but it's a heartening and overdue shift toward making control on the social network less of a test of mental stamina.

Shortcut To Privacy?

Among Facebook's notable changes is Privacy Shortcuts, a new menu option designed to keep privacy settings for the most important stuff right at hand.  Members will be able tinker with core privacy controls right from the main toolbar -- no menu-spelunking required.

Facebook's Biggest Privacy Overhaul This Year

The update also adds some utility to the Activity Log, a running record of your every micro-act on the social network. The Log can now be sorted by content type, and it will allow members to review untagged photos and other content that could still appear elsewhere.

The Log also allows members to untag multiple incriminating or otherwise unsavory photos at once -- a timely godsend for holiday party-goers the world over.

Privacy: A Facebook Work In Progress

The privacy revamp builds on last year's update, which introduced granular controls that allowed members to decide how public their posts are. That update also introduced prior review for photo-tagging (giving people the ability to stop others from identifying them in photos) and the ability to sign off on what pops up in their Timeline.

The suite of changes is the most significant privacy overhaul since August 2011, designed to bolster the trust of its increasingly skeptical members, largely by providing more contextual education. The update will be rolled out gradually (a hallmark of Facebook updates with this scope), beginning at the end of 2012.

Placating Mistrustful Users

Increasingly, it seems that the company needs to assuage vocal members' complaints about the social network's infamously complex settings. The confusion might charitably be attributed to the fact that Facebook offers a forest of features to an incredibly huge membership.

Maybe, but obfuscation has stubbornly persisted when it comes to the process of sharing information on Facebook, be it a wall post or your photos from that night in Cancun.

It's hard to ignore the reality that member data, aggregated or not, is being sold to avaricious advertisers, and that Facebook shareholders are (understandably) happiest when the advertisers are sated.

Three Big Goals

According to a post about the changes by Facebook's product lead, Samuel W. Lessin, who also worked on the 2011 privacy overhaul:

"We continue to strive toward three main goals: bringing controls in context where you share, helping you understand what appears where as you use Facebook, and providing tools to help you act on content you don't like."

Amen.