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As Promised, Facebook's Privacy Checkup Has Arrived

It's time to clean up your sharing habits on Facebook.


Facebook doesn’t want you over-sharing — seriously! — and it’s ready to prove it.

The social network is asking all of its 1.3 billion users to complete a privacy checkup, a short online exercise where users review who they’re sharing with on the platform. Facebook announced the checkup in May, but only tested it with a small subset of users over the past several months. Now, it’s ready for a full rollout.

The checkup includes a review of who can see your posts (categories like “public,” “friends” or “only me”), which third-party apps you’ve linked your account to, and which information you’re currently sharing in your bio. None of these privacy controls are new — Facebook is simply drawing attention to them in a new way.

For the majority of users, this will be a new experience. Earlier this year, Facebook started alerting users who share posts publicly to review their settings, but the company has never actively asked users to check their app permissions or bio information, said Paddy Underwood, a product manager on Facebook’s privacy team.

Facebook’s privacy settings — which have changed frequently over the years — are notorious for their complexity. Navigating them can be particularly difficult for new users, as there’s a slew of different settings to keep track of. For example, you can keep some parts of your profile private, share other parts with friends only, and still share other elements publicly. You can keep your friends list private — although not entirely private if you have friends with different settings — and users can tag you in photos you haven’t approved (unless, of course, you change the settings to manually approve each one). Confused yet?

This expansive list of privacy settings is why, after 10-plus years of encouraging users to connect and share with as many friends as possible, the company is now trying to clear things up. “When people are surprised by who can see their stuff, people have a bad experience,” says Underwood. “Nobody likes being surprised.”

The ultimate goal: if you fully understand which of your friends can see your post, there’s a good chance you’ll share more often.

Given Facebook’s history with privacy, the past six months have provided a noticeable change of pace. In addition to the earlier prompt for users posting publicly, Facebook changed the default post setting for new users to “friends” when it first announced the checkup tool in May. The default was previously set to “public,” meaning new users had to manually change the audience for their post.

At Facebook’s F8 developers conference in April, the company announced that it will begin unbundling app permissions, a change that allows users to pick and choose which elements of their profiles they share with third-party developers.

The underlying message, once again, centers around engagement. “The more people trust Facebook Login, the more likely they’ll be to use it,” Underwood said.

Facebook will prompt users to complete the privacy check over the next week or so on the Web, but you aren’t required to participate. Facebook will follow up at some point down the road with users who skip the checkup, or users can initiate the process at any time by accessing the Privacy Shortcuts in the upper right-hand corner of the home screen near settings.

More than 30 percent of Facebook’s 1.3 billion monthly active users visit the site on mobile only, meaning they won’t receive the privacy checkup prompt. Facebook will come out with a mobile version of the checkup after the company receives feedback from the desktop version, says Underwood.

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