Facebook reforms user settings

Anyone who regularly uses Facebook knows it has once again undergone privacy changes. Many users reacted negatively to recent Facebook changes, and the leaders at Facebook unveiled new privacy features Wednesday in reaction to user concern.

The new privacy feature puts all privacy settings into one simple control, blocks unwanted visitors from seeing user profiles and stops third-party applications from accessing personal information. The number of settings required to make all information private has been reduced from almost 50 to less than 15, according to the Facebook press release.

Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials received criticism surrounding the recent Facebook changes, including the new Instant Personalization Program that links the social networking site with third-party companies such as Pandora and Yelp.

“When people have control over what they share, they want to share more,” Zuckerberg announced on a Facebook blog post. “When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected. Over the past few weeks, the number one thing we’ve heard is that many users want a simpler way to control their information.”

Facebook is used for everything from social networking to photo sharing, event invites, games, music and news updates. The new settings allow users to decide to share things with either their friends or with everyone on Facebook.

“New settings will give the more than 400 million people who use Facebook the power to control exactly who can see the information and content they share, all with just a few simple clicks,” according to a May 26 Facebook press release.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) spokesperson Rebecca Jeschke said Facebook is hard to quit for many users.

“People are in a spot here,” she said. “Facebook is trying to exploit them. Users should continue to put pressure on Facebook to be careful with their information.”

The EFF Web site published a press release Wednesday informing users how to change their privacy settings.

“While some information, such as your name, profile picture and gender, will remain publicly available, these steps are designed to provide as much privacy as Facebook’s new system allows,” according to the EFF press release.

To change privacy settings, users can go to the Privacy Settings page of the Web site. The words “Choose Your Privacy Settings” should appear on the top of the privacy settings page. If not, then users have to wait until the rollout reaches them, according to the EFF press release.

University journalism professor Kyu Ho Youm said Facebook should be more transparent about how it’s handling user information, but that the new privacy settings are a positive change.

“I’m impressed with the way they have proactively addressed complaints,” Youm said.

University journalism professor Tiffany Gallicano said Facebook has made mistakes from a public relations standpoint. Facebook is handling personal user information, and when it makes these changes, the company’s relationship with users could suffer. However, Facebook can still improve its image by communicating proactively and publicly apologizing to users, Gallicano said.

“What they should do is restore settings to the way they were,” she said.

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