Today, Facebook made an important change to its privacy settings by switching the default posting status from "Public" to "Friends only" for new users.
It's a necessary change for Facebook, which admits to the New York Times that it became clear in an internal review of privacy settings "that many people were accidentally sharing their status updates with a far broader audience than they intended." Since 2009 Facebook's default privacy settings have been public for new users, causing information like photos, status updates, and even personal contacts like phone numbers to be shared with the world.
On top of changing the defaults, Facebook will also begin to prompt all 1.28 billion of its users to perform a "Privacy Checkup" to show the apps they've given permissions to and who they're sharing with. It's a feature Facebook tested back in March to rave reviews and the changes seem to be part of a coordinated company effort to assuage user fears about personal data after a year in tech that has been dominated by walled-off and ephemeral messaging apps, massive security leaks, and reports of unchecked government surveillance.
To its credit though, the company does appear to be more cognizant than ever of its potentially invasive services. In the past two months, Facebook has made its newer, more invasive features like "Nearby Friends" and audio recognition for post tagging as opt-in services, making sure new or inexperienced users aren't tricked into broadcasting their locations or sharing information without knowing.The social network also made privacy a primary focus at this year's recent Facebook's F8 conference where the company rolled out a review process for third-party apps as well as an anonymous third-party app login system to keep user data private.
Perhaps, more than anything else though, these settings are the latest sign of a more confident Facebook. For many, the decision to set default user statuses "Public" was a direct response to the threat of Twitter, where most tweets are, for better or worse, public and optimized for distribution. Five years and one IPO later, the company has found a reliable way to become wildly profitable and boast the largest current user base of any social network. After several high profile acquisitions, Zuckerberg has cemented his status as a tech mogul and, in response, the company has seemingly matured, changing its motto from "Move fast and break things" to the far less sexy, "Move fast with stable infrastructure." Perhaps it's an indicator that Facebook, like its CEO, has started to come of age.