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Facebook prepares for another privacy row with its users

Zuckerberg tries to pimp your data again

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Facebook has once again decided to tweak its privacy policy, but this time the Mark Zuckerberg-run company has told its users to expect another overhaul ahead of making the changes - presumably in an effort to prevent the kind of protest the Web2.0rhea site suffered last year.

On Friday Facebook’s deputy general counsel Michael Richter said in a wishy-washy blog post that the firm planned to introduce some new features to its site, but didn’t actually reveal much about what its 400 million users can expect to see change.

“We're proposing another set of revisions to our Privacy Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to make way for some exciting new products we're contemplating,” he said.

“Not all of these products have been finalised and many aren't yet built at all. However, we've definitely identified some interesting opportunities to improve the way you share and connect with the people and things in your life.”

The company has made changes to its location tagging feature, which Facebook wonks had been beavering away at for the best part of a year, though they haven't actually unleashed it on the site yet.

“We thought the primary use would be to ‘add a location to something you post.’ Now, we've got some different ideas that we think are even more exciting,” said Richter.

“So, we've removed the old language and, instead added the concept of a ‘place’ that could refer to a Page, such as one for a local restaurant. As we finalise the product, we look forward to providing more details, including new privacy controls.”

The other potentially controversial change planned by Facebook involves allowing “pre-approved third party websites and applications” that use the Facebook Platform to grab general information about users from their account when they are logged into the service.

“In the proposed privacy policy, we've also explained the possibility of working with some partner websites that we pre-approve to offer a more personalised experience at the moment you visit the site. In such instances, we would only introduce this feature with a small, select group of partners and we would also offer new controls,” said Richter.

On the flip side, Facebook developers and third party websites will be required to “delete all data” from the site if a user requests such a removal. Additionally developers are forbidden from sharing Facebook data with other ad networks such as Google and DoubleClick.

Of course whether those coders adhere to the Facebook policy remains to be seen. Facebook execs admitted in the past that getting everyone to follow its rules was impossible.

Richter made a big play of Facebook’s efforts to be transparent about tweaks to its product. The only problem is that the blog post offered very little in the way of actual detail. Richter said the company would have more to say once it has finished the changes to its product.

The latest overhaul reflects Facebook's ambitions to get more of its interface to be embedded within online searches, making the site even more pervasive across the web.

Facebook users can air their disapproval or insert a smiley face until 3 April, said the company. ®

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