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Facebook rolls out simplified privacy controls, a month too late

Facebook has introduced new privacy settings, which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says will help users share their favorite content – safely. So does the update really make Facebook more secure?

By Matthew Shaer / May 26, 2010

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook is now a safer place, thanks to a simplified privacy dashboard. Others think Facebook is still a long way from where it should be.

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Well, it's better late than never. After taking fire from just about every corner of the blogosphere – including a sizable contingent of haters that thought the social networking site should be taken offline altogether – Facebook today announced it was simplifying its privacy settings in order to help users "feel in control" of the information they share online.

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"The number-one thing we've heard is that there just needs to be a simpler way to control your information," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. "We've always offered a lot of controls, but if you find them too hard to use then you won't feel like you have control. Unless you feel in control, then you won't be comfortable sharing and our service will be less useful for you. We agree we need to improve this."

Beginning today, Facebook has greatly consolidated most of its security settings onto a handful of dashboards, making it easier for users to control how much content – including wall posts, "likes," and photographs – is visible to the public. If you want to toy around with the individual settings, and allow some friends to see certain parts of your profile, you can still do that, but the one-size-fits-all switches go a long way toward answering Facebook's critics.

Of course, not everyone is sold on the update. Over at Gawker, Ryan Tate writes that "users are still pushed to overshare, and still have to opt out of egregious privacy breaches." Tate is referring to the friend list – which is still public unless you explicitly tell Facebook you want it private – and the photo sharing setting, which is still set on default to "everyone."

"Facebook recommends you make all your photos, status updates and posts visible to the world. Users have said time and again that this is the sort of information they'd rather keep private, especially when it comes to photos. Facebook should keep this information private by default, and let not-so-private people change the settings to share more freely," Tate argues.

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