Facebook is about to begin a major overhaul of its privacy structure, the company said in an announcement posted on the service Tuesday night.
The firm said it will be eliminating the familiar regional networks that often govern which users can and can't see content posted on the site. Instead, the new model will be simpler, allowing users to grant permission to browse personal photos and entries based on three tiers -- friends, friends of your friends, or everyone.
Facebook, which initially grew out of groups defined by college boundaries, has long outgrown that model, the firm said.
"Some of these regional networks now have millions of members and we've concluded that this is no longer the best way for you to control your privacy," said Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg in a post published Tuesday evening. "Almost 50 percent of all Facebook users are members of regional networks, so this is an important issue for us. If we can build a better system, then more than 100 million people will have even more control of their information."
Zuckerberg said the firm will also be adding more precise tools for controlling privacy settings. Rather than depending exclusively on generic settings, users will be able to set privacy restrictions on individuals photos and posts.
The firm will remind users to check their privacy settings to make sure there are no unintended consequences from the change. The biggest concern would be the removal of restrictions on some content that might make it available to users who until this point could not see it -- such as photos of college friends suddenly becoming visible to work colleagues.
"We've worked hard to build controls that we think will be better for you, but we also understand that everyone's needs are different. We'll suggest settings for you based on your current level of privacy, but the best way for you to find the right settings is to read through all your options and customize them for yourself," Zuckerberg wrote.