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Update: questions about Facebook default for new privacy rules

Facebook today said it will roll out new tools that allow its 350 million users to customize who gets to see, or not see, each bit of information they put out on the social networking site. But one default setting for the new program is for everyone -- that means everyone on the Web -- to see what users are posting and writing on Facebook unless instructed otherwise.

That's a problem, according to privacy advocates, who say that by making the basic standards for privacy so loose, it doesn't protect users who may not understand how to customize their setting to ensure information isn't gathered on them.

"Granual controls are great and we support them but this very well could drive less privacy on Facebook," said Ari Schwartz, vice president of Center for Democracy and Technology.

According to the company, the new program will give users greater control over what they share and what information is gathered about them.

That status update on snow falling in Peoria can be tweaked for only relatives in Florida to see. Those photos of Mardi Gras can be blocked from co-workers. And those links to Tiger Woods stories can be broadcast to all of Facebook's universe if you want.

The tool is called Publisher Privacy Control and will roll out today. The company will have a press call later this morning to explain the program further.

"We're asking our 350 million users to think about privacy for the first time," said Tim Sparapani, Facebook's director of public policy. He was speaking at an International Association of Privacy Professionals summit in DC this morning. "We're actually giving our users control over their data and asking every single one of them to go through the process of deciding how they want to share."

The move follows workshops at the Federal Trade Commission this week on growing concerns that privacy isn't being properly addressed by regulators in the digital world.

By Cecilia Kang  |  December 9, 2009; 12:48 PM ET
Categories:  Privacy  
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