Facebook simplifies privacy controls, will it be enough?

Facebook founder Mark ZuckerbergFacebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced changes designed to stem the barrage of bad publicity the site has been hit with recently. The huge social networking site has been under fire on a number of fronts concerning privacy issues and is trying to head off a drop in the number of users.

It has been ripped for a lack of easy-to-use privacy controls; the fact that friends can unwittingly share your private information; and the general loss of trust by users over privacy issues. In the face of an organized Quit Facebook Day, which has 22,000 members signed up to quit, Facebook is rolling out new, simplified privacy controls.

In a post on Facebook, Zuckerberg announced changes that will gradually be rolled out to Facebook users in the coming weeks. In the post, Zuckerberg basically tells users that the old privacy settings and policy were a result of growing pains and stressed that the company welcomed feedback.

Consumer Reports issued a take on the new Facebook privacy controls and while they were happy with the reduction of privacy controls, down from 50 settings to 15, they still have concerns and advise users to check their Facebook settings again once the new controls have rolled out.

Even with fewer settings and a simplified structure it may be difficult for some users to know that the setting they are enabling or disabling will do exactly what they want. For this reason, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has set up a guide on How to Get More Privacy from Facebook's New Privacy Controls. This guide walks you through the process of maximizing privacy on Facebook. You can view a video of the guide below.

Facebook claims that these new controls will make it much easier for the average user to change their privacy settings to match what they actually want shared. As part of the switch to a the new privacy-control method, Facebook will be giving users more control over the information that they share, even down to the information required when you sign up. The new privacy settings will be available at Facebook.com/privacy when they are available for your account.

So far, user reactions to the Facebook privacy changes have been mixed.

"Too little too late, I'm gone." tweeted Ken McConnell, a writer and software tester from Boise, Idaho.

"It's free. what did you expect? We're the product and the advertisers are the clients, make no mistake about that." said Lynn Vander Meer of Milwaukee, Wisc., in a comment on WalletPop's Facebook page.

"I don't put anything on fb [Facebook] that isn't public knowledge. Nor do I participate in the games. I'm private to avoid spam." tweeted Sean Hertzsch of Columbus, Ohio.

"Im [sic] glad the privacy setting have been modified. Another one to consider is when people want to delete their FB account. The info should not be retained in your system. It really should be deleted. The thought that the account is still there is creepy." commented Sherice Fulton of Atlanta, Ga., on the Facebook privacy blog post.

It's too soon to tell if the changed Facebook privacy controls will address all of the complaints that critics, users and privacy advocates have had with the service, but it appears to be a step in the right direction.

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