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Facebook responds to privacy concerns

Hamish Barwick | April 14, 2014
The social media company is testing a privacy checkup message


User feedback has led Facebook to start testing a popup privacy checkup message for users when they post content. The company is also planning to enable users to set restrictions on past cover photos in the coming months.

Speaking during a videoconferencing call with media today, Facebook's United States product manager Michael Nowak acknowledged that some users felt their privacy policies had "changed too much" and Facebook hadn't "communicated about privacy as well as it could have".

"A real goal is to build a system that makes people feel comfortable sharing and confident that they understand who they are sharing information with," he said.

According to Nowak, the organisation runs 4,000 surveys a day focused on privacy. These surveys are run in 27 different languages.

"One thing we have been testing recently is called the Privacy Checkup. If you have shared posts with the public, we want to make sure that it is the right audience for you. If you have been sharing items publicly and haven't changed your privacy settings to friends only, a privacy checkup message will pop up," Nowak said.

The popup message reads `Hi.... you haven't changed who can see your status in a while'. It then asks the user if they want to choose the status to be public or to be shared with friends only.

"This is a departure for us because we understand that people who come to Facebook don't want to hear from us, they come to communicate with their friends and family," said Nowak.

"However, we think there are some cases in which it is important that we should interrupt to make sure people are sharing in the right way."

In addition, people can report a privacy issue they are having on Facebook. On the upper right hand corner on the homepage is a drop-down menu with a link to report a problem.

"Sometimes people share things on Facebook and they feel that these are shared more widely than they wanted them to be shared. I've had this experience in the past - you share something and you think only your friends can see it but you realise that someone outside of that group was able to see it or comment on it," he said.

"We need people to be in control of who they are sharing with and we are addressing this. One is those is the status update composer box. On the right hand side, it tells you that you are sharing this update with all of your friends," said Nowak.

"We can make it clear for people every time they go to post something. This is something we tested in late 2013 and we ended up pushing this out in early 2014."


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