Facebook ups privacy and adds chat

19 Mar 2008

Users of popular social networking site Facebook will have more control over who sees their profile as the company today announced it will change its privacy controls and add new features to give users flexibility over whom their share their information with and to the degree to which they share it.

A new feature, ‘Friends of Friends’, will allow users to share information with a trusted network of friends – an aspect of ‘the trusted web’, a concept put forward by Tim Berners Lee, among others.

In December of last year, Facebook added the friends list feature which allowed users to create friends lists and restrict or share information accordingly. But this new privacy setting means Facebook members can control more specific events such as what information is broadcast on their newsfeed or what information, if any, from their profile, turns up on a site search of their name.

Much controversy surrounding the privacy issues on Facebook were due to third-party developers of applications requiring users to agree to sharing personal information before they could install and use the application in question.

Now users can control what information is supplied to applications they use on Facebook, and can restrict the amount of information or remove or add applications to a list of those authorised.

Since Facebook’s ill-fated introduction of its marketing tool Beacon, privacy has been a contentious issue for the social networking company. Beacon tracked Facebook users both on the site itself but also on associated third-party sites, meaning that if a Facebook user purchased something on one of these affiliated sites, his or her friend would be alerted.

Following a high level of complaints from users, the Beacon tool was then made opt-in as opposed to opt-out.

As well as changing privacy settings, Facebook also soon plans to introduce an
instant messaging (IM) tool, which will allow users to chat in real-time within the site and will require no downloading of external applications.

News site Wired.com reports that the Facebook chat application will not have any ‘away’ or ‘busy’ options like those used in IM clients Google Chat or MSN Messenger nor will it have the option for group chat.

By Marie Boran