Facebook proves it (finally) cares about privacy with new features

The network once defaulted to public posts for new users, but after years of complaints, Facebook is changing its tune.

When you signed up for Facebook countless years ago, your posts defaulted to public until you changed your privacy settings. In a new commitment to privacy, Facebook will now set the default for new users--if there are any people left in the world without Facebook accounts--to friends-only.

Why the switch? Facebook said your feedback about embarrassing moments, times when you've accidentally broadcast a post to the world that was meant for just your friends, led to the change.

"We recognize that it is much worse for someone to accidentally share with everyone when they actually meant to share with just friends, compared to the reverse," Facebook announced on Thursday.

I'm pretty sure people have been saying that for years, but better late than never.

New users will also be prompted to select a default, either public or friends-only, for future posts. If they don't pick one, Facebook will automatically select friends-only.

Facebook's new concern about privacy doesn't just extend to newbies. The network cares about its 1.28 billion active existing users, too, which is why it's rolling out a privacy checkup tool. The feature will pop up automatically at some point over the next few weeks. Signified by a blue dinosaur (pictured at top), the tool will remind you to review some important privacy settings, like who sees your posts. Facebook is also making it easier to change the audience for a post by moving the selector to a more prominent position in the iOS app and on the Web.

It's a little strange that it took Facebook so long to realize that defaulting to public posts and serving up your information to third-party organizations did little to bolster trust. A wave of services promising privacy and anonymity have siphoned attention away from Facebook, so the network is returning to its roots as a place for friends (or was that a MySpace thing?).

People don't use Facebook to spread their information around. They use it to connect with friends and family. By defaulting to friends-only posts, introducing a private way to try out new apps with Anonymous Login, and reminding those of us who've used Facebook since the dawn of time to revisit our settings, the network is finally adopting a consistent tone on privacy. It's about time.

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