Facebook has announced changes to their privacy settings, making it easier for users to select who sees their posts. These features are similar in many ways to those found on Google+, and have met with almost universal approval by privacy advocates.
Users and privacy advocates have been complaining about Facebook’s approach to privacy for years now, although in the past, they seemed unwilling to do anything about it. However, users now have access to a feature called “Profile Tag Review”, which allows individual tagged posts and photos to be approved before they reach a profile.
Facebook are also changing the word “everyone” to the word “public”, so that people understand it is the general public and not just other Facebook users who will be able to see their posts. While this semantic change may not seem like much, users have long struggled with this difference.
Users now also have the ability to refuse a tag altogether, although Facebook has opened up the entire tagging process. For example, users will now be able to tag non-friends in photos and posts, so the ability to remove tags is likely to become essential. While this feature may become open to abuse, Facebook has built in restrictions to how it is used.
“Something to note is that whenever you’re tagged by a non-friend, it will always go into your Pending Posts section of your profile [regardless of whether you've turned on the Profile Tag Review or not]” said Meredith Chin, product communications spokesperson at Facebook.
While the timing of these changes and their similarity to some Google+ features is interesting, they probably have more to do with the collective maturing of social networking systems rather than any outright copycat behaviour.