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Security watchers have warned that Facebook's latest revamp will create the tendency to expose more user information.

The redesigned profile, launched earlier this week and due to be rolled out gradually over coming weeks, is designed to encourage punters to expose even more information about their day to day lives to the dominant social networking site, net security firm Sophos cautions.

For example, the About Profile page encourages users to share experiences, discover common interests, and to highlight meaningful relationships. The move will have the effect of highlighting the closest relationships and keenest interest a user might have. Previously this information would have probably been on a list, but not highlighted as especially important.

Sophos urges Facebook users to consider how much information they ought to share using the new service, warning that it may not just be their closest friends and contacts who get access to the sensitive information.

“Adding features to facilitate sharing updates, interests and photos may be appealing to some Facebook users. However, people need to be wary about how much personal information they’re willing to give away online,” said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos.

“Many Facebook users are online ‘friends’ with complete strangers and so we’d advise Facebook users to consider their privacy settings, make sure they’re only sharing information with people that they know and trust and to think carefully about how much personal information they want to make public.”

The redesigned profile is one of a multitude of privacy and content-control issues that have arisen over Facebook, especially over recent months. Users have progressively been encouraged to share photos and comments among wider and wider groups (from friends only to only friend-of-friens, to anyone on Facebook, etc) by default via a series of changes, most notoriously a revamp of Facebook's privacy policy late last year. More recently a decision by the NHS to integrate its NHS Choices health information site into the Facebook Connect platform provoked a warning from online privacy firm Garlik that this would allow the tracking of users on the site.

Although it has never admitted as much, more detailed user information in profiles make Facebook a more attractive platform for advertisers; hence Facebook's direction of travel is always towards encouraging users to share more with a wider pool of people. ®

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