Facebook Users Get A New Way To Fight Embarrassing Photos

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Credit: Corbis / Brooks Kraft

Facebook has announced a re-vamping of its privacy settings today, with the intent of making clear to users just how much sharing they’re doing.

Perhaps the most popular new feature will be the ability to pre-screen photos that are “tagged.” Until today, when Facebook users were tagged in photos they find embarrassing or unflattering, they might get a notification about it by email, and then they’d have to scramble to un-tag themselves. Now, users can insist on approving any new tagging of themselves before it happens. (The picture will still go up immediately, but the tag won’t be added until the tagged person grants permission.)

Clarification: A Facebook spokesman contacted me to clarify that the new pre-approval tagging system only applies to a user’s own Facebook profile page. So while you can choose to pre-screen all photos of yourself appearing on your own page, if you want to affect where you are tagged on your friends’ pages, the notification-and-response method is still what you’ll need to use.

It’s a savvy move coming not long after the launch of the competing Google+ network. While Google’s social network is still far smaller than the 750-million user Facebook, it has won early praise from some commentators who view its privacy settings as more thorough.

“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,” wrote Facebook Products VP Chris Cox in a today’s blog post detailing the changes.

Other new privacy controls include:

Shorter, simpler “settings” page, and “inline” privacy controls: That means you can immediately see who can view a particular part of your profile.

“Everyone” becomes “Public”: This is just a wording change, but it’s meant to make it clear that anyone on the internet could see this content.

Retroactive privacy changes: If you change your mind about who should see a particular status update, you can still change those settings, even after you post.

Location tagging: Not really a privacy change, but location information can now be added into any status update or Wall post. Before, you’d have to “check in” using Facebook Places. This feature could be a “baby step” for acclimating smartphone owners to sharing location, even if they’re not ready to jump in whole-hog to a location-sharing service like Places.

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