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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Facebook Changes Privacy Settings, Again

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Facebook is making changes to its privacy settings.

First, it is improving some privacy protections. The company is adding a new top-level control, called Privacy Shortcuts, that will allow people to quickly change who can see their “stuff” (as Facebook calls it) and who can contact them through the Web site. The shortcut will also feature a one-button link to block someone on Facebook.

In a phone interview, Sam Lessin, Facebook's director of product, said these shortcuts will always be visible to people on Facebook as they navigate the site. He added that highlighting the ability to block someone is an increasingly useful feature.

“There are a billion users and blocking is the ultimate way of saying I don't want to interact with this person,” Mr. Lessin said. “We think blocking is really positive.”

The company is also introducing a higher level of control on the site's Activity Log, a feature that allows people to hide or remove things that appear on their Facebook timeline. People will now be able to quickly view and control comments, photos and posts that have been tagged by others.

But when Facebook giveth, Facebook taketh away.

The company is eliminating the ability for people to hide themselves on Facebook's search, a control, that until now, has existed in the privacy settings on the company's Web site.

Mr. Lessin said the ability to hide from the site's search would be “retired” as only ”a single-digit percentage of users” actually hide themselves from Facebook search. But keep in mind that Facebook has a billion people on the site; a single-digit percentage of users could mean tens of millions of people.

But we should have seen this coming. During the TechCrunch Disrupt conference earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, talked about the company's potential moves into search, highlighting how people use the feature.

“Search is interesting. We do on the order of 1 billion queries a day and we're basically not even trying,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Today with search the vast majority of it is people trying to find people.”

Now you won't have a choice but to be featured in search. At least you can easily block someone who finds you.