Yes, it's complicated: Facebook's latest reshuffling of its privacy options has brought yet another batch of settings to adjust and risks to consider.
Before, all your posts would be visible to the same people — everybody online if you'd stuck with Facebook's default setting, friends only if you'd switched to a less-exhibitionist option. Posting an update to more or fewer people required an unintuitive series of clicks.
Now an "audience selector" menu, as seen above, lets you toggle between sharing with the "Public" or "Friends," each noted with a distinct icon. Here, Facebook begins to catch up with the more flexible interface of Google Plus.
But each new change becomes your new default. Share one photo with a subset of friends, and only those happy few will see your next update unless you change things back. Broadcast a message to a larger fraction of Facebook, and your next musings will be open to that expanded audience unless you revert that setting too. And because the audience selector uses the same "Custom" icon for any intermediate level of publicity, it's easy to forget who can see your next post.
Fortunately, you can alter the visibility of an update retroactively, hiding it even from people who already commented on it. The Palo Alto, Calif., social network also says it plans to add more choices to the audience selector menu. But Facebook (and Google) should also report how many people will see an update; rather than indicate that I will share with "Friends of Friends" (or "Extended Circles"), tell me that I've got 5,280 potential readers.
Facebook's next big change makes it easier to tag people you happen or claim to be with, and for others to return the favor. That's people, not pals: You no longer need be Facebook friends to tag somebody or be tagged by them.
This expands the privacy risk posed when friends tag you in photos and videos. But now you can veto these tags before mutual friends see them–if you enable a "Profile Review" option under the "How Tags Work" section of Facebook's privacy settings. You always get this control over tags set by strangers.
Third, the Places feature once confined to Facebook's mobile web site and applications has been engulfed by the regular status-update dialog. On a full-sized computer, you can lie about your locale (I teleported myself to a restaurant in Paris). Facebook's mobile apps and site, with access to your phone's GPS, will hold you accountable and remain the only way to claim the "check-in deals" some merchants offer.
Adding a city to one update, however, puts it in subsequent ones. If you, like me, usually announce your location only in specific places where you'd want to know about nearby friends–for example, airports–you need to remember to switch off that tagging.
There's a bigger issue behind this and all of Facebook's other privacy revisions: the ability of its ever-larger population, now past 750 million, to keep up with these changes. The company thinks of itself as a startup, but many of those people see it as more of a utility. For them, consistency is as important as creativity.
Credit: Rob Pegoraro/Discovery