Facebook Ups Users Privacy Protections

Facebook has unveiled new privacy settings that allow users to control who sees their material, and how much information third parties can gather on them.

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The social networking site Facebook has been dogged by privacy concerns almost since it was founded in a Harvard dorm room. Now the company has a new approach to protect user's privacy, as NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL: Critics have accused Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of not caring about privacy, and in the past, he's made remarks that indicated that he did not. But, at a press conference, Zuckerberg said it was a core part of their belief that people own and control all of their information on Facebook. The new features, he announced, will let people easily make small groups that are closed to outsiders. So, if you want to have conversations with your family and aren't keen on sharing it all with your coworkers, you could make a family group. There will also be what Zuckerberg called a dashboard that lets you see exactly what kind of information certain games and outside applications are taken from your page.

Say you play a game and it gets access to your contacts. Now you can block that aspect of the game. Lastly, users will be able to download their entire profile to their computers: photos, updates, comments. And if you leave Facebook, you can take it with you.

Speaking after the press conference, Forrester Research analyst Ray Augie said the company made great strides in fixing privacy problems.

Mr. RAY AUGIE (Analyst, Forrester Research): There's always going to be some level of criticism, but no. I think that this is a really smart step for Facebook, and I think all three things they announced here today helps move the ball forward in terms of greater control and greater transparency.

SYDELL: The new features will begin rolling out immediately.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

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