Facebook Smart Lists to Group Friends, Protect Privacy

Facebook plans to release a new feature, Smart Lists, which will let users automatically group friends into categories to help protect and control privacy.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based social network, which hasn’t officially announced the new feature, has been testing the feature with select users and may release it site-wide in the next few weeks.

Facebook has always had Friend Lists, which let users group different friends based on varying categories. However, the new Smart Lists let users custom-design their News Feeds to automatically deliver content only from the people they want to see.

The new feature may be Facebook’s response to rival Google+, which protects users privacy in “Circles” to allow users to group friends and more closely control who sees their posts.

Smart Links follows other recently released Facebook privacy controls. For example, Facebook last month moved privacy controls from a separate settings page to users’ home and profile pages, next to where they see and post items.

Smart Lists’ automatic grouping of users’ friends may be convenient for users who don’t like to spend a great deal of time working on their social networks’ privacy issues.

On the other hand, other customers may not like Facebook’s additional control over their lists of friends and co-workers, and may see Facebook’s new Smart Lists program as a type of privacy violation.

Users likely will be able to opt out of Smart Lists, as with other Facebook features. But Facebook users who have several lists of contacts may appreciate having more control over who sees their posts.

Facebook has not said when it will unveil Smart Lists to the general public. When the new feature is available, it may help the social network retain users who considered switching to Google+ to further define and protect their online relationship groups.

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