Facebook Overhauls Privacy Controls

By Khurram Aziz | Dec 14, 2012 09:56 AM EST

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Facebook just can't seem to leave its privacy controls alone, with the social network once again overhauling settings to allow users more control over publicly available information about them.

The change to the privacy settings is the most significant in more than a year, and will begin appearing to the Facebook's 1 billion registered users over the next few weeks.

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"We believe that the better you understand who can see the things you share, the better your experience on Facebook can be," said Facebook in a statement. "Today's updates include Privacy Shortcuts, an easier-to-use Activity Log, and a new Request and Removal tool for managing multiple photos you're tagged in. We're also adding new in-product education that makes key concepts around controlling your sharing clearer, such as in-context reminders about how stuff you hide from timeline may still appear in news feed, search, and other places."

The most visible change will see "privacy shortcuts" appear as a tiny lock at the right-hand side of the screen, at the top of the "news feed". This will give users precise control on "Who can see my stuff?" and "Who can contact me?" Previously, the privacy settings were criticised for being hidden away on the website.

Users will also now be able to review every publicly available picture on Facebook that includes them, with suggestions on how to ask for them to be removed.

"If you spot things you don't want on Facebook, now it's even easier to ask the people who posted them to remove them," the company said.

Users will also get more precise control on apps they use with the website, allowing them to decide how much of their profile to share, including their friends list, and stopping them from posting into their public news feed.

The changes come at a time when Facebook is facing criticism from watchdog groups and regulators regarding users' personal information. Last year the social network settled a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), without admitting wrongdoing, by agreeing not to change privacy settings without consent from users.

But this week, the social network made changes to its terms of service that allow it to combine data from Facebook with information from Instagram, the photo-sharing service that Facebook bought earlier this year.

The social network had allowed users to vote on whether those changes were acceptable and it received 500,000 digital ballots in opposition. However, that number is far short of the 300 million that Facebook's policy required to make the election binding.

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