TMI! Facebook moves to stop over-sharing

Social network adds tools to help keep personal information among Facebook friends

Facebook is adding tools to helps its users to stop over-sharing their personal posts with total strangers.

The social network Thursday unveiled privacy features designed to remind users that they may want to share their posts about an argument they had at work or pictures from Saturday night's party with just their friends instead of with the entire worldwide Internet.

"On Facebook you can share whatever you want with whomever you want, from a one-to-one conversation, to friends or to everyone," the company noted in a blog post this morning. "While some people want to post to everyone, others have told us that they are more comfortable sharing with a smaller group, like just their friends.

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

Historically, when someone joined Facebook, their account was set by default to share with the public. Now, though, new accounts will be automatically set to only share with friends. The user can then change that if they want to.

Facebook also said it plans to remind current users that they may want to rethink who can see their posts.

"For people already on Facebook, we've also received the feedback that they are sometimes worried about sharing something by accident, or sharing with the wrong audience," Facebook noted. "Over the next few weeks, we'll start rolling out a new and expanded privacy checkup tool, which will take people through a few steps to review things like who they're posting to, which apps they use, and the privacy of key pieces of information on their profile."

Users also will be able to change the privacy settings of their previous posts, as well.

The company added that as they roll out the new features over the next few weeks, it will ask users to review things like who they're posting to, which apps they use, and the privacy of key pieces of information on their profile.

"We want to do all we can to put power and control in people's hands," wrote Facebook. "This new tool is designed to help people make sure they are sharing with just the audience they want."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said while the move by Facebook will help users better maintain their privacy, the company itself stands to get the most benefit.

"Facebook knows that they must reinforce these capabilities to keep current users, but to also attract new users," he told Computerworld. "I believe Facebook's main intention here is to increase engagement. Their theory is that if I can selectively share, I would share more frequently and more personally."

Moorhead did agree that Facebook users do need a reminder when it comes to how widely they're sharing information about their children and their travels, along with pictures from the beach.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

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