Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Facebook gives users more control of privacy

Facebook website screen shot
Facebook is one of the world's most popular social networking sites

Facebook is launching new privacy settings, designed to simplify the process for its 350 million users.

It is the latest in a string of changes that have been made to its privacy policy this year.

The site claims that only 15-20% of users have ever adjusted their settings.

One new feature - the ability to control who sees every post made - was made following a stream of requests from users.

Facebook will make recommendations about how widely available different postings should be. It suggests that status updates should be visible to everybody.

"We believe users will feel comfortable sharing more," said a spokesperson.

It will mean information can be shared with a wider internet audience as search engines increasingly integrate content from social media sites into search results.

Google announced plans to integrate certain Facebook data into its real-time search although the data will be limited to public profile Facebook pages created by celebrities and companies.

Rival social media site Twitter makes all information viewable to the public.

Facebook will require users to update their general privacy settings, in a first for an internet firm.

It acknowledged that the process had become "complicated" as new features have been added to the site.

The new publisher privacy control means users can select a privacy setting for each piece of content, from updates to photos, meaning they can tailor their posts for specific audiences.

Privacy choice

Users will be asked to choose one of three categories; friends, friends of friends, or everyone.

From 9 December, Facebook will offer all its users a so-called transition tool, explaining the changes and asking users if they want to update their settings.

"We've always designed Facebook to enable people to control what information they share with whom... we will continue to innovate to serve users' changing needs," said Elliot Schrage, vice president of communication.

Earlier in the summer, the social network was forced to make worldwide changes to its privacy policy when it was found to be in breach of Canadian law by holding on to users' personal data indefinitely.

It agreed to make changes to the way it handles this information and be more transparent about what data it collects and why.

It also agreed to make it clear that users can deactivate or delete their account.

In February Facebook responded to criticism over the way it handled users' data by opening up the site's policies to users.

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