Since Google+ launched some months ago, Facebook has had to do a bit of catching up to match it, in terms of the privacy controls. Google+ encourages you to put all of your friends into certain ‘circles’, and comes with pre-defined groups such as friends and acquaintances, as well as ‘following’ for people you don’t know but find interesting, such as celebrities. When you post something, you can select which circles it is shared with, or even which individual friends can see it, or make it public and thus viewable by any Google+ user.
In response, Facebook beefed up its friend lists feature, although it has a way to go before meeting Google+ as by default new friends aren’t placed into a specific list; Google+ asks you which circles you want any new contacts adding to. Secondly, Facebook allows you to ‘subscribe’ to people in the same way that you can ‘follow’ them on Google+ – by subscribing, you’re not adding them as a friend (so it’s not reciprocal) but you can see any public posts by that person in your news feed. The subscribe feature is opt-in, so only a few people (mainly celebrities who previously had separate fan pages) use it, although I have enabled it for my profile.
And thirdly, there’s more granular control on what gets posted to whom. On both the web site and in its official mobile app, Facebook lets you set your status updates, links and photos to be either public, friends only, or a custom setting such as a specific list, or to exclude certain people. Also, you can set the default privacy level for applications that post to your wall, such as games.
In light of all of this, I’ve made some changes to my Facebook profile which means that more information is viewable publicly; namely, any new blog posts, anything that has been imported from Delicious and some status updates – essentially, anything that I would post publicly on Twitter anyway. So, if you’re a Facebook user, you can subscribe to my profile without necessarily being my friend, and still be able to see some of what I get up to.