Facebook privacy controls updated after users ignore policy vote

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Facebook privacy is under the microscope once again: after the social networking giant made changes to its control options for users.

The move comes just two days after the Facebook privacy policy vote ended. The vote was ignored by the majority of users, with just under 600,000 participating.

The vote, advertised via the Facebook Site Governance page, saw just 0.07% of users participating: at least 300m needed to vote to make their voices heard.

Given the low participation - despite hoax status updates about copyright issues becoming ubiquitous on the site in recent weeks - Facebook has ploughed on with its proposed changes, which were rolled out today (Wednesday).

The site has introduced a suite of new tools, designed to make it simpler for Facebookers to choose who can view their content.

The tools allow users to determine who can see their status updates, comments and personal information. They can also request for unwanted photos of them to be removed.

A new Facebook privacy shortcut will appear near the top of the page, with the option to block users,and manage who can send messages to your account.

The move is part of Facebook's attempt to simplify its settings: following criticisms that its privacy options were confusing.

Sam Lessin, Facebook's director of product, said making things as easy as possible for the site's 1bn users was at the heart of the changes.

Reuters quotes Lessin as saying: "When users don't understand the concepts and controls and hit surprises, they don't build the confidence they need."

The changes don't appear to have caused too much consternation amongst the social networking community: expect a few people expressing surprise that they had not heard about the vote.

The Facebook privacy update comes just months after the FTC in the US ruled the site had 'deceived' users. As part of that, Facebook must get consent for changes to its privacy settings (hence the vote), and will be audited for up to 20 years to check compliance.

Facebook is also altering the information available to third-party apps (like games), which now separates consent for obtaining user data, and posting updates to their timeline.

Finally, the new Facebook privacy changes have ensured its photo app, Instagram, which it bought for $1bn, can integrate with user data on site, and allows more open use of the Facebook email system. This should improve direct Internet marketing options for businesses using Facebook advertising.

The changes proposed in the vote also ruled out any future user votes on Facebook privacy. The site will base future changes on user data.

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