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Facebook User’s Vote Gains New Privacy Options

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Following a poll of its nearly one billion users, Facebook is introducing a number of new privacy controls today. The poll was a part of the social media giant’s efforts to address user concerns over who can see their personal information.

According to the company, the new privacy controls simplify how Facebook’s members can quickly determine who can view the comments, photos, and other information about them that appears on different parts of the website. The new feature also allows users to request that any objectionable photos they’re featured in by other users to be removed.

A new privacy “shortcut” in the top-right hand corner of the website offers speedy access to key controls such as allowing users to manage who can contact them and to block specific people.

The privacy controls come in response to continuing complaints by users that Facebook’s privacy settings are too confusing. Facebook Director of Product Sam Lessin said the changes were designed to increase users’ comfort level on the social network. “When users don’t understand the concepts and controls and hit surprises, they don’t build the confidence they need,” he said.

Facebook, Google and other social media companies have faced increasing examination and enforcement from privacy regulators as consumers offer up an ever-increasing amount of personal information to web services.

This past April, Facebook settled privacy charges with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that said it had deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. By terms of the settlement, Facebook is required to get user consent for certain changes to its privacy settings and is subject to 20 years of independent audits.

Lessin said some users don’t understand that the information they post on their Timeline profile page is not the only personal information about them that may be viewable by others. Improvements to Facebook’s “Activity Log” will make it easier for users to view at a glance all the information that involves them on the social network.

Facebook is also changing how third-party apps, such as games and music players, obtain permission to access user data. All such apps must now provide separate requests to create a personalized service based on a user’s personal information and to post automated messages to the Facebook newsfeed on behalf of a user. In the past, users agreed to both conditions by approving a single request.

The new controls follow proposed changes that Facebook has made to its privacy policy and terms of service. The changes would allow Facebook to integrate user data with that of its recently acquired photo-sharing app Instagram, and would loosen restrictions on how members of the social network can contact other members using the Facebook email system.

Almost 600,000 Facebook users voted to reject the proposed changes, but the votes fell well short of the 300 million needed for the vote to be binding.

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