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Recent Privacy Changes on Facebook

Facebook in recent months has endured a substantial amount of criticism over privacy concerns, particularly due to confusing default settings that automatically expose information on a person's wall along with photos to the public, difficulty in controlling information that is share with third party applications, and the onerous process involved for those who wish to delete their accounts. Such concerns prompted Senator Chuck Schumer-D, NY, to call on the Federal Trade Commission to set guidelines for social networking sites with repect to how personal information is used.

In response to the growing scrutiny, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a press conference on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, that Facebook will be implementing privacy changes to give the user more control in sharing information (see the press release on Mark Zuckerberg's blog). The following is a summary of those changes:

1. One simple control that will allow the user to limit the visibility of wall postings to "friends only", "friends of friends", and "everyone".

2. Lower the amount of information available to the public (pages and friends are no longer required to be listed on the profile).

3. Improve the ease of managing personal information that is available to third party applications and websites.

Whether these changes will satisfy privacy groups and keep more people from defecting from Facebook remains to be seen. While the response appears to be positive, PC Magazine posted an article on its website that evaluated most of the changes negatively based on criteria stipulated in a previous article. Chief among the concerns included the need for a"simplified privacy" link from the homepage, a "friends only" default setting that will limit the ability to view photos to those on a user's friends list, and making account deletion easier for those who wish to leave Facebook for good.

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