Facebook to simplify its privacy controls

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NEW YORK --- In Facebook's vision of the Web, you wouldn't be alone and anonymous. Sites would reflect your tastes and interests -- as you expressed them on the social network -- and you wouldn't have to fish around for news and music that interests you.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the social network site's new privacy settings.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the social network site's new privacy settings.

Standing in the way is growing concern about privacy from Facebook users -- most recently complaints that the site forced them to share personal details with the rest of the online world.

Facebook responded to the backlash Wednesday by announcing it is simplifying its privacy controls and applying them retroactively, so users can protect the status updates and photos they have posted in the past.

"A lot of people are upset with us," CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged at a news conference at Facebook's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters.

The changes came after Facebook rolled out new features in April that spread its reach to the broader Web. Among them was a program called "instant personalization" that draws information from a person's profile to customized sites.

Privacy groups complained to regulators, and some people threatened to quit the site. Even struggling MySpace jumped in to capitalize on its rival's bad press by announcing a "new, simpler privacy setting."

To address complaints its settings were getting too complex, Facebook will give users the option of applying the same preferences to all their content, so that with one click you can decide whether to share things with just "friends" or with everyone.

It's not clear whether the changes will quell the unease among Facebook users, which has threatened to slow the site's breakneck evolution from a scrappy college network to an Internet powerhouse with nearly a half-billion people.

Some of Facebook's loudest critics offered cautious praise but indicated the young company will need to do more to prove it cares about privacy.

Sen. Charles Schumer called it a "significant first step that Facebook deserves credit for," but added he'd still prefer that Facebook require users to actively turn on sharing with outside sites, rather than having sharing be the default setting.

Facebook privacy

THE CHANGES: Facebook is simplifying its privacy controls and is promising to apply them retroactively, and to services introduced in the future.

THE IMPETUS: Privacy groups have complained to regulators, and some users have threatened to leave Facebook after changes announced in April. CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged, "A lot of people are upset with us."

THE REACTION: Privacy groups applauded Wednesday's announcement, but say Facebook will need to do more.

-- Associated Press

Coming Sunday

Social Media Editor Sarah Day Owen reviews the new privacy settings and what it means for Facebook users.

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cntlscrut 05/27/10 - 10:22 am
I love how privacy groups

I love how privacy groups mention that this move is good but that FB needs to do more.

What should have happened was FB not mucking around with the privacy in the first place. In the beginning, things were private, and slowly FB started taking it away. Then, they just came out and took all privacy away and they were arrogant about it too as if FB users are mindless zombies that will obey any command because Fb is so "awesome."

Get real, Zuckernut.

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