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Facebook launches new privacy settings; users decide who sees each post, picture

TORONTO - Facebook has rolled out its promised changes to beef up privacy controls, allowing users to decide exactly who sees status updates, pictures and other content.

TORONTO - Facebook has rolled out its promised changes to beef up privacy controls, allowing users to decide exactly who sees status updates, pictures and other content.

Facebook's 350 million users are now being prompted to update their privacy settings based on the new system of controls.

Users can choose to make their information accessible to anyone on the Internet, only friends, friends of friends, or only specific people.

Users can also choose to send content to all their friends with the exception of just one person or a few people - a boss, or an ex-boyfriend, perhaps.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg signalled the changes were coming last week, saying many users asked for the enhanced privacy controls.

Jules Polonetsky, co-chairman and director at the Future of Privacy Forum think-tank in Washington, praised how the process resembles the way people decide what to share in their day-to-day lives. He said putting the controls "when you need it, right there, is far better than putting it in a 'privacy' or 'help' location" somewhere on the site.

Facebook said that until now only 15 per cent to 20 per cent of its users have customized their privacy settings.

The changes have no effect on advertising on the site, said Elliot Schrage, vice-president of global communications and public policy at Facebook.

But he added that by giving users such granular control over the content they share, Facebook is encouraging more sharing and a greater connection to the site.

"If users feel more confident with our service, they will use our service more," he said. "And the more they use our services the more benefits we derive."

The changes follow updates to Facebook's privacy policy posted in late October, which were in part based on recommendations filed by Canada's privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

Facebook elaborated more on the differences between deactivating and deleting an account, and what happens to an account after a user has died - issues that were raised by Stoddart.

Stoddart said she was satisfied Facebook was "on the right path to addressing the privacy gaps on its site" based on its commitments to address her complaints.

 
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