Last week, Facebook made a big announcement concerning changes to the default privacy setting for new users. Previously, all new Facebook users’ posts were automatically set to Public. Some liked sharing their thoughts with everyone, but this default setting resulted in many individuals posting to a wider audience than intended. Since privacy settings can be difficult to figure out, many did not realize that they had to switch the audience of their posts to limit them to just Friends.
Even for veteran social media users, publicly sharing posts on Facebook is almost too easy to do by accident. After all, if you change the privacy setting for just one post to Public, it will stay on that setting for all future posts until you change it again.
To combat this problem, Facebook’s privacy setting change errs more on the side of caution, as the default is now set to broadcast to Friends only. As Facebook acknowledged in its news release, “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.”
While this type of change has happened before, specifically in 2013 when the default audience of new teenage users between the ages of 13 and 17 was narrowed to just Friends, now all new users regardless of age will be covered. This privacy update is expected to occur over the next few weeks across both Facebook’s website and iPhone app.
In addition, more privacy features and tools will appear for all users, including a “new and expanded privacy checkup tool” that will guide users through their privacy settings. You might also be seeing more of Facebook’s “privacy dinosaur” named Zuckersaurus-Rex. Introduced in April, this blue cartoon dinosaur appears with a pop-up message to warn users who haven’t adjusted their privacy settings and are about to post to Public.
While this is great for new Facebook users, it would be wise for existing users to double check their current settings. If you think you might have accidentally shared to Public in the past, you can change the audience of your old posts by using the “Limit past posts” option in privacy settings. For those accessing Facebook from a computer, you can get to your privacy settings by clicking the padlock icon in the upper right hand corner. Select the “Who can see my stuff?” shortcut tab and click “See more settings” for more options. For those using the Android app, press the top left “hamburger” shaped icon and scroll down to privacy settings. Mobile iOS app users can do the same by tapping on “More” in the bottom right of their screens before navigating to “Privacy shortcuts”.
Given growing public concern over online privacy, it’s nice to see Facebook taking a step in the right direction. Hopefully these changes will help individuals have more control over the information they share on social media, but much of your privacy is in your own hands. Always remember to check who you’re sharing with each time you post.