Facebook puts privacy controls in hands of its users

New Facebook setting lets users open their personal pages to public viewing

How much Facebook privacy do you want?

Facebook is giving its users greater control over just how private they want their profile, updates, photos and videos to be. Want to keep your latest endeavor between you and your network of Facebook friends? Done. Want to open your pages up to public viewing? Well, now you can do that too.

"One of the top priorities at Facebook is offering privacy controls that let you choose exactly what you share with whom," said Mark Slee, an engineer at Facebook, in a blog post Monday afternoon. "Starting today, you can choose to make your profile and any of your content available to everyone on Facebook. None of your existing privacy settings have changed. This is an additional setting for those of you who wish to share with a broader audience."

Monday's change comes on the heels of several recent changes to the Facebook social network.

For example, Facebook fired a shot across Twitter Inc.'s bow earlier this month with the announcement that its public profiles have been updated to allow users to share personal information with an unlimited number of friends. And the new Facebook setup also will enable businesses, organizations or even celebrities to blast out information to customers, members or fans.

The site recently showed off a controversial redesign that has upset many users. "Please bring back the old Facebook," wrote one user responding to Slee's blog. Yesterday's announcement drew more negative than positive comments from users responding to the blog post.

With this latest change, users now can go to their privacy page and change the setting to "everyone" if they want to open their content up to the public.

"I think this is a good thing," said Dan Olds, principle analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. "It gives people on Facebook much more granular control over what they show or don't show the public. Giving customers more control over how they use your product is almost universally a good thing. It helps people get more use out of it. There are some people who will make many more connections because of these new features."

This doesn't mean it will be easier for people to Google your content, but it does mean that it will be easier for other Facebook users to find you and the photos of your new house or your dog's birthday party.

By opening up your privacy settings, Slee explained that people who see one of your posts or who find you through a search on Facebook will now be able to see any part of the profile opened by the user for public viewing. "While some special rules remain in place about who can see your profile if you are a minor, people generally won't need to be friends with you or share a common network in order to view your content if you choose the new "Everyone" setting," he wrote.

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