Security Experts:

Facebook Updates Privacy Controls Despite Vote

Facebook has once again updated its privacy controls in the name of simplicity.

The changes were announced this week and are expected to roll out by the end of the year. Among them are an easier-to-use Activity Log and shortcuts for managing privacy controls.

"Up until now, if you wanted to change your privacy and timeline controls on Facebook, you would need to stop what you’re doing and navigate through a separate set of pages," blogged Facebook's Samuel W. Lessin. "Today we’re announcing new shortcuts you can easily get to."

"Now, for key settings, you just go to the toolbar to help manage “Who can see my stuff?” “Who can contact me?” and “How do I stop someone from bothering me?” You can also access Help Center content from these shortcuts," he explained.

The changes came after thousands of users voted for Facebook not to change its privacy policies. However, under Facebook's rules, 30 percent of its user base –300 million of its 1 billion registered users - would have to vote to make any decision binding. Less than 700,000 users participated.

Earlier this year, Consumer Reports estimated that 13 million Facebook users in the United States either do not use or are unaware of the site's privacy controls. In addition, 28 percent of those polled said they share either all or almost all of their Facebook posts with people besides their "friends." In addition, only 37 percent said they have used the site's privacy tools to limit how much information apps are allowed to see.

To help users better under the privacy implications of their actions, the company has created a series of messages to notify users the content they hide from their timeline may still appear in their News Feed, search and other places. In the name of giving users more control, the company also stated that users will now answer some application permissions requests separately.

"The first time you log into a new app, it asks for permission to use your info to personalize your experience," according to Lessin. "Some apps also ask to post to Facebook. Before today, these two requests were part of the same screen and happened at the same time. Soon you’ll start to see these requests happen separately, so you have more control over what you share."

"Many of the apps you use will move to this new model, but some will not – for example, games apps on Facebook.com will not change," he added. "For more information on how these new permissions will work, see our developer blog."

The site also announced plans to remove the "Who can look up my timeline by name" feature used to control who could find a user by typing their name into the Facebook search bar. The setting was limited in scope, Lessin explained, and it did not prevent people from finding others in many other ways across the site.

"Because of the limited nature of the setting, we removed it for people who weren’t using it, and have built new, contextual tools, along with education about how to use them," he blogged. "In the coming weeks, we’ll be retiring this setting for the small percentage of people who still have it."

The final change the company announced is to the Activity Log introduced last year. The company has moved to improve navigation to allow users to more easily review their activity in Facebook, such as their likes and comments. It also has new ways to sort information.

"Within the updated Activity Log, you now have a Request and Removal tool for taking action on multiple photos you’re tagged in," Lessin blogged. "If you spot things you don’t want on Facebook, now it’s even easier to ask the people who posted them to remove them."

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