Facebook Boosts Privacy Controls

Facebook is making changes to its privacy policies. Under intense pressure from users and privacy advocates, the social networking company is taking steps to give users simpler controls for sharing personal information.

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Today, Facebook announced major concessions on how it handles privacy. For months, users have been upset about new settings that push them to share more of their personal information. NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

MARTIN KASTE: Facebook's founder, 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, is well-known for his belief that people just want to share. In the last six months, the social networking site has made it more complicated to restrict who sees your information, and it's made certain kinds of information public no matter what.

But today, on a teleconference with reporters, Zuckerberg took back many of those changes.

Mr. MARK ZUCKERBERG (Founder, Facebook): A lot of what we've heard is just that, you know, people want a simple way to control whether any of their information gets shared with third parties. So that's what we're doing.

KASTE: Facebook will allow users to skip the confusing array of 100-plus individual privacy options and instead choose an overall level of privacy for most kinds of information. The site will also make it possible once again to hide your interests, your likes and dislikes, from the general Internet. And it makes it easier to block third-party applications. Those are those Facebook games which can scoop up information about you.

But Facebook is still resisting the idea that privacy should be the default setting, that is that users should have to opt in to information sharing. Zuckerberg says that would defeat the whole purpose of social networking.

Mr. ZUCKERBERG: That's not what users have told us that they want. I mean, users use the service because they love sharing information, right, and I think that that's one of the things that does seem like it's changing in the world.

KASTE: All in all, privacy advocates have welcomed the changes. Kevin Bankston(ph) is an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Mr. KEVIN BANKSTON (Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation): They are becoming more responsive to privacy concerns, but I think their basic philosophy of what the future of Facebook and the Internet should be has not changed. And so we are going to have to be watchful.

KASTE: Facebook says it'll roll out the new privacy options over the next few weeks.

Martin Kaste, NPR News.

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