Facebook responds to Google+ with major changes to privacy settings and check-in system

Facebook has launched a range of new updates to its privacy and location settings in a move that is being seen as a response to the introduction of Google+ and the shift towards categorising information based on the people who you want to view it.

The new features include the ability to approve photos of yourself that others have tagged before they are published, and see more clearly the groups to which you are broadcasting status updates and posts.

“You have told us that ‘who can see this?’ could be clearer across Facebook, so we have made changes to make this more visual and straightforward,” Facebook said in a blog post.

“The main change is moving most of your controls from a settings page to being inline, right next to the posts, photos and tags they affect.”

The announcement comes just weeks after Google gained notoriety for implementing “circles”, a system that allows users to customise their updates and decide the specific people who they share with. Facebook’s new announcement has solidified that trend.

The first change will be to the “edit profile” page. Content will now appear next to a drop down menu that will let users know who can see their profile.

The second change is the ability to now approve or reject any photos that you are tagged in before they become visible to everybody else. This is also the same for tags and photos referencing yourself, and you’ll also be given the option to “detag” yourself.

Doing so will provide you with options on whether you want to take the tag down, request your friend take the photo down, or take the tag down and block that person completely.

Another change will also place the “view profile as” feature towards the top of each profile page. And the control for changing who can see each post will be featured in the text box for a status update.

“This drop down menu will be expanding over time to include smaller groups of people you may want to share with, like co-workers, Friend Lists you’ve created, and Groups you’re a member of. These will make it easy to quickly select exactly the audience you want for any post.”

The word “everyone” in these options will now be changed to “public”. And you’ll also be able to change who can see these posts even after they’ve been published.

The biggest change has been made to locations. Before, you could only check in to locations on a smartphone. Now you can add them at any time, and on any device, included on updates, photos or wall posts.

Facebook now wants users to tag their location wherever they are, and also wants people to start including location names in their status updates, whether they are referencing past, present or future activity.

Check-in Deals, which were launched last week in Australia, will remain. The location feature is now expanding to all devices, at all times, rather than just on a smartphone. However, they have been changed so that when users tag a certain venue, deals will be presented to them.

The way it works now is that when users reference a location, that location will be included in a News Feed update, with the deal posted underneath it. Users click on the deal to claim it.

But location will now become a much bigger part of the Facebook ecosystem, with the site now prompting users to include their location on every post. However, by default this will only remain at the “city” level, although users can change this if they like.

These updates are a major change for Facebook, which has been criticised by advocacy groups many times over for neglecting to include these different options previously. With Google now entering the social networking space, and having been praised for its attention to detail regarding privacy settings, Facebook has been forced to respond.

Changes will start rolling out in the next few days. Users will be given a tour when the upgrade affects them.

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