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Facebook's New Privacy Guide Might Actually Help You

When I share stories and photos on Facebook, I often forget how many people see my postings — until someone I didn't expect leaves a comment. That's why I'm glad that Facebook today (Jan. 26) released a new page called Privacy Basics that explains how to access and manage privacy and security settings as well as other options.

Once you find the Privacy Basics page (it's not given prominent placement on the home screen), you'll get a clear, well-designed series of pages that explain how to fine-tune your settings. Privacy Basics also contains 32 interactive guides that walk you through adjusting various settings.

The guides amount to a virtual Facebook user's manual, showing you how to manage everything from who sees your photos to how your profile appears to others to how to stop harassment. However, they don't directly link to the actual Facebook settings pages, which seems like a glaring oversight.

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Each walk-through in Privacy Basics includes images of the mobile app as examples. It might be best to view the walk-throughs on a laptop or desktop monitor while you have the Facebook app open on your smartphone. (There are no screenshots of Facebook on a web browser, underlining that the mobile app is Facebook's priority.)

Some of the messages in Privacy Basics are fairly general, such as a reminder to not recycle passwords, one of Tom's Guide's most-often-given pieces of advice. Others are more specific, such as how to un-tag yourself in a photo another Facebook user posted.

Privacy Basics is broken down into four major sections: Manage Your Privacy for sharing and profile settings, Stay Safe and Secure for password and account management, Advertising for understanding how Facebook markets your information and Working Together, which explains how Facebook shares data with Facebook-owned services such as WhatsApp and Instragram. The walk-throughs offer valuable help in navigating Facebook's nested, sometimes confusing menus.

After you've finished reading a Privacy Basics walk-through, Facebook suggests you open the Privacy Checkup section, which offers tools for managing these preferences. Facebook's Privacy Checkup has been around since 2014, but Privacy Basics is a bit easier to understand.

Privacy Basics contains valuable information, but it could be even stronger if the company took it a step further. The page could offer users direct access to the specific settings in question after the walk-through, as Google does with its My Account hub. If so, Facebook Privacy Basics would look less like a children's book about privacy and more like a functional way to manage Facebook privacy settings.