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Facebook overhauls privacy controls

December 13, 2012 14:12 IST
World's largest social networking site Facebook has unveiled tools to simplify its privacy settings, in its latest bid to give user more control and clarity over how their personal information is shared.

Facebook unveiled new privacy features on Wednesday that are aimed at making it simpler for users to limit who can see their posts and photos, while taking away one setting that allowed users to make it more difficult for strangers to find them.

The changes come as Facebook and other Internet giants face close scrutiny from privacy advocates and regulators who are concerned about how personal information is shared across the Web.

Facebook representatives said the new features give users more control and will clarify what's been criticised as a complicated and confusing array of privacy settings on the social network.

The fine-tuning will include several revisions that will start rolling out to Facebook's more than 1 billion users during the next few weeks and continue into early next year.

The most visible, and perhaps most appreciated change will be a new "privacy shortcuts" section that appears as a tiny lock on the right-hand side at the top of people's news feeds.

This feature offers a drop-down box where users can get answers to common questions such as "Who can see my stuff?" and "How do I stop someone from bothering me?"

Other updates will include a tool that enables individuals to review all the publicly available pictures identifying them on Facebook and suggestions on how to request that an embarrassing or unflattering photograph be removed.

Facebook also plans to plant a privacy education page at the top of its users' news feeds within the next month or so to help them better manage their online identities.

However, some privacy advocates objected to Facebook's elimination of a control that lets people hide their Facebook Timelines -- which include a profile picture and other photos and posts that users have shared publicly -- from strangers who type an individual's name into Facebook's search engine.

One critic suggested the move could violate Facebook's legal settlement with Federal Trade Commission regulators who accused Facebook of numerous privacy offences in 2011.

"Simplifying the privacy policies and making them more accessible is a step in the right direction. Making profiles publicly searchable seems like a step in the wrong direction."

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment on the Timeline criticism.

Seema Hakhu Kachru
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