Facebook beefs up privacy with three big changes

Tom Spring, PC World
27 May, 2010
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Facing a fierce public backlash over privacy issues, Facebook is working to reverse its tarnished image by offering three big changes to how users can manage their privacy. At a press event, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his company would “simplify” privacy controls starting with a redesigned privacy settings page.

“We’ve focused on three things: a single control for your content, more powerful controls for your basic information and an easy control to turn off all applications,” he wrote on the official Facebook blog.

These new controls, outlined below, will be rolled out to users starting this week, but will take possibly weeks for all users to see them, according to Zuckerberg.

One simple control

Facebook is introducing a new privacy settings page to allow users to more easily control who sees the content you post. Using this setting, Zuckerberg calls “one simple control”, you’ll be able to set the content you create on your Facebook page to either everyone, friends of your friends or just your friends. Sharing of your content will also apply to Facebook products launched in the future — eliminating the need to set new rules to different types of new content, services, or features introduced at a later date.

Facebook says this revamped privacy settings page will help its users take control over how they share their personal information.

Keeping info private

The second privacy update is one that gives users a better handle on what basic information you share with the larger Facebook community. One big difference is you’ll be able to block people from seeing your Facebook page and your friends’ pages. However, Zuckerberg pointed out: “We recommend that you make these settings open to everyone. Otherwise, people you know may not be able to find you and that will make the site less useful for you.”

These controls will be accessible via a Basic Directory Information in the privacy page settings area.

Third-party privacy, please

Facebook says it is also making it easier for you to close off access from third-party applications (such as games) and websites to your private information. Zuckerberg said that Facebook has added “an easy way to turn off Platform completely. This will make sure that none of your information is shared with applications or websites.”

Controls over third-party access to your private information also extends to Facebook’s controversial “Instant Personalization” option.” Already, partner sites can only see things you’ve made visible to everyone. But if you want to prevent them from even seeing that, you can now easily turn off instant personalization completely,” Zuckerberg said.

“If you simply want to turn off instant personalization, we’ve also made that easier. Already, partner sites can only see things you’ve made visible to everyone. But if you want to prevent them from even seeing that, you can now easily turn off instant personalization completely.”

Zuckerberg assures that these privacy changes are here to stay.

“If you find these changes helpful, then we plan to keep this privacy framework for a long time. That means you won’t need to worry about changes. (Believe me, we’re probably happier about this than you are.),” Zuckerberg said.

As much as these changes put more Privacy controls into the hands of users, it’s hard to say if it will quiet privacy activists and angry Facebook users. Many have asked that Facebook require users to opt-in to data sharing relationships as opposed to opting-out.

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