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This article was published on December 20, 2012

Facebook starts rolling out new privacy settings, making it easier to control what data is public [Updated]

Facebook starts rolling out new privacy settings, making it easier to control what data is public [Updated]

Facebook announced plans to make its privacy control settings easier to find this month, and now a series of new menus and notifications has begun to roll out to users of the social network, initially in New Zealand.

Update: A Facebook spokesperson has told us that the updates will come to all users over the next week: “We’re testing the new tools in some specific countries right now and we will be rolling them out to additional countries over the next week.”

The changes — which were outlined in an ABC report earlier this month — are designed to give users easier access to and awareness of ways that they can control the privacy of their information on the site. A new privacy shortcut menu has been added to the main bar that runs across the site. There’s also a new ‘privacy settings and tools’ page that displays a simplified overview of privacy options  and lets users opt out of having content from their Timeline indexed by search engines.

The company has, however, removed the option to de-list user details from Facebook search. A spokesperson justified the move by telling the New York Times that the opt-out was only utilized by “a single-digit percentage of users” – by the site has more than 1 billion users, so that number may still be sizable.

As of today, users in New Zealand have got the new settings which match up to the preview screenshots posted by ABC last week. Big thanks to Wellington-based TNW contributor Owen Williams for sending us the screen grabs, which he, friends and other Kiwis are seeing on the social network.

The new message below greets users as soon as they land on That’s designed to ensure that all of them are made aware of the new settings and, in particular how they can block users who are bothering them.

The menu bar itself is positioned in between the ‘home’ and ‘settings’ icon on Facebook’s top menu bar. It drops down to reveal a range of options that help show which data from the social network is shown publicly, while providing quick-settings to change privacy options and a link to the fuller settings page.

That latter link leads to the privacy settings and tools menu which lays things out clearly. Here the option to prevent search engines from linking to a Timeline is included alongside a bunch of other options to simplify and control data.

In short, this is a move that will go some way to cutting through the clutter and confusion of Facebook’s numerous menus and settings, but there is still more work to be done. Plenty of settings are still hard to find including, crucially, the option to view your profile from the perspective of another users — which clearly shows what data is publicly available — as ABC pointed out. Update: The ability to view your profile as others do is in fact accessible simply through the drop down menu in the Privacy shortcut. TNW apologizes for the confusion.

Privacy has long been a sore point for the social network, and that’s largely down to the fact that it has built up a formidable amount of information about each of its 1 billion plus users. Back in November 2011, it was ruled in the United States that Facebook would face 20 years of privacy audits from the Federal Trade Commission due to what CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted were “mistakes” in its handling of privacy issues, and that’s sure to have influenced its latest action.

Nonetheless, the company is looking to taking positive steps forward with these new, more visible controls and we can likely expect things to evolve further on the privacy front.

Speaking to ABC, Facebook’s manager of privacy and safety, Nicky Jackson Colaco, said that the new settings would be released before the end of the year, and that the first step has already been taken. The US social network often uses New Zealand as a test-bed for new features and functionality and, at this stage, the new controls do not appear to have reached Australia, the US or the UK — three markets that would be part of any worldwide roll-out.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for clarification on its schedule for taking the privacy controls worldwide.

Related: Facebook giving users better clarity and control over their privacy with improved app permissions

Headline image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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