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Financial 411: Facebook Announces Privacy Overhaul

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Facebook today announced major changes to how it manages its users' privacy. The social networking site was responding to growing criticism from users and what CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today was a "need to simplify the controls."

The changes include the following:

  • A new "simple" mode for adjusting privacy settings.
  • A reduction in the amount of content that is always visible publicly.
  • The ability to block Facebook applications from accessing your information.
  • A clearer way to "opt-out" of a recent feature that shares information with other websites.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, holds a press conference at their headquarters in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Kim White/Getty Images)
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook. (Photo by Kim White/Getty Images)

Facebook had been criticized for having an overly complicated privacy settings page -- it contained more words than the U.S. Constitution -- and for making too much of its user information public. Zuckerberg said earlier this week that the site had "missed the mark" with the policy.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer released a statement today praising Facebook for the changes, but he cautioned, "We will be monitoring this carefully.” Schumer had issued a letter to the company last month raising concerns about the privacy policy.

Despite the criticism, Facebook's popularity continues to grow. This week, tracking service ComScore said the number of users at the end of April totaled 519 million, up from 400 million in September.

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