Facebook Revamps 'Privacy Basics' User Guide

Facebook updated its Privacy Basics user guide to make it easier for people to learn how to protect their personal information on its platform.

Privacy Basics was introduced in 2014 as an interactive walkthrough of the social network's myriad settings. Instead of having to search through documentation, contact Facebook support, or wade through a bunch of tutorials, Privacy Basics showed users one important piece of information at a time. Facebook was effectively spoon-feeding users who cared about the privacy of their data but weren't familiar with the site's many options.

Now the guide has been updated to answer the most frequently asked questions and reorganized to make it even easier for people to find answers. Facebook said Privacy Basics now has 32 interactive guides available in 44 languages, which should allow many of its 1 billion users to learn how to limit what they share on the social network. Privacy Basics also explains how people can control their ad experience and bolster their account's security.

Facebook said the updated Privacy Basics are part of a broader push to educate people about their privacy:

We’re making these improvements as part of Data Privacy Day, held each year on January 28. We’re joining state attorneys general and other policymakers who are sharing their own privacy information on Facebook, along with organizations around the world like National Cyber Security Alliance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, who are working to raise awareness of how to take charge of your information online.

The updated Privacy Basics is Facebook's latest attempt to make its services easier for people to understand. The company also introduced the Parents Portal in December 2016 to help people understand how their children use Facebook, for example, and it also said when it announced the Facebook Journalism Project that it planned to teach its users how to spot "fake news" that spreads on the social network. But will all these efforts be enough?

Facebook has also come under fire recently for various privacy concerns. The most recent were complaints that Facebook and WhatsApp accounts have been connected since 2014, even though the services were supposed to be separate until summer 2016, and that the companies should've made this data sharing opt-in for existing users. The company was also criticized for tracking people on the web even if they didn't have Facebook accounts.

Yet the discrepancy shouldn't diminish Facebook's work with the updated Privacy Basics and Parents Portal. There's a difference between keeping something private from other Facebook users and not sharing information with Facebook itself. Better to have some options--like restricting who can see a status update or blocking harassers--than to have no control over what happens on the service at all. Different needs require different tools.

Here's what Facebook said about the motivation behind Privacy Basics:

People share their most valued moments on Facebook, and we want to make tips and tools clear and accessible whenever you need them. Privacy Basics gives you tips for things like securing your account, understanding who can see posts and knowing what your profile looks like to others. This is part of Facebook’s overall effort to make sure you have all the information you need to share what you want with only the people you want to see it.

The updated Privacy Basics can be found on Facebook's website. The company also released a short video about the new guide.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.