Blog of Rights

You've Been Tagged on Facebook—But Now You’re In Control

By Chris Conley, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California Technology and Civil Liberties Project at 6:27pm

This morning, Facebook announced its latest set of changes to its privacy controls that will start rolling out on August 25. The upcoming changes are intended to make it easier for you to understand and choose who can see both content you post yourself and tags created by other users. Allowing you to pre-approve tags and giving you better tools to manage your own profile is a positive step, and we encourage Facebook to turn settings like these on by default and to continue to develop and improve features and tools that give you control over your own personal information.

From our perspective, the biggest change Facebook announced today was the ability to review and approve tags before they are posted to your profile or attached to your content. If you turn on the Profile Review setting, you will be notified each time you are tagged by a friend in a photo, at a Place, or in any other content and given the choice to approve or block the tag before it appears on your profile. (You’ll also be given additional options, including sending a request to the poster asking them to remove the content from Facebook entirely.)

Unfortunately, it sounds like this setting will not be turned on by default. We don’t yet know how or whether Facebook will let users know that it exists, so we’ll have to wait for the changes to actually roll out before we can determine whether users actually know this option is available.

Facebook is also changing its visibility controls for content, making it easier for you to recognize that you’re about to share a picture with the “public” and to change that to a different group of people. In addition, Facebook is finally allowing you to retroactively change your visibility settings for status updates, whether you posted them a day ago or a year ago.

Finally, Facebook is expanding tagging considerably: now any other Facebook user can tag you (not only your friends) and you can tag any Place or Page on Facebook at any time. However, any time you're tagged by a non-friend, you are always required to pre-approve the tag before it shows up on your profile, no matter what your privacy settings are. Just remember to check quickly before you hit “Approve All Posts!”

We still have concerns with many of Facebook's privacy practices, including those we spelled out in our open letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year. We hope Facebook will continue to take steps to build user trust by putting control over your personal information in your hands. Join us and keep telling Facebook that you want control over your own personal information.

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