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Facebook preparing to make changes to privacy settings in response to criticism

May 21, 2010 |  4:54 pm

With growing scrutiny from lawmakers, regulators and privacy watchdogs, Facebook will unveil changes to its privacy settings on the world’s largest social networking site as early as next week. But the changes may not go as far as those groups would like. 

Facebook has no plans to end its instant personalization nor to get explicit consent from its nearly 500 million users before rolling out features, two people familiar with the plan said.

A group of U.S. senators have called on Facebook to allow users to opt out of a test program that shares data with three third-party websites. Criticism of Facebook has intensified in the wake of technical glitches and loopholes that have exposed user data to third parties. Last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other executives met with employees at the company’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters to field questions about privacy.

Facebook said it plans to simplify privacy choices for users after complaints that settings are confusing to navigate. It’s likely that Facebook will offer users a simpler option to share all content either with everyone, friends of friends or friends.

Facebook acknowledged that the privacy uproar has led to some soul searching. “We’ve spent the last couple of weeks listening to users and consulting with experts in California, Washington, D.C., and around the world,” spokesman Barry Schnitt said in a statement. “We have shared a number of different ideas with a number of different parties.”

Schnitt added that Facebook users like the new features, they just need them to be easier to use. “We’re listening to this input and incorporating it into innovations we hope to announce shortly.”

-- Jessica Guynn

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