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Facebook adding new privacy control tools for your 'stuff'

Voting's done, let's get on with it

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Facebook has moved swiftly to introduce changes to its privacy controls and settings and it will roll out new tools to restrict access to posted material and edit past posts in the next week or so.

The privacy settings menu has been simplified to three topics: "Who can see my stuff?" "Who can contact me?" and "How do I stop someone from bothering me?"

When users post up new material they'll also be offered options on how far and wide to distribute that hilarious – and possibly career-ending – photo of the office Christmas party.

If this fails to stop people posting unwelcome information, Facebook is also making it easier to edit your "stuff" on the Timeline. It's adding multiple image removal, and users can send a message to the poster explaining why it was removed. That'll take "stuff" off your direct Timeline, but it'll still appear in some search results, though without tags to identify who's in the photos.

Speaking of search, Facebook has turned off the ability to hide your name from its search tool, and those who are using the feature will have it phased out. In a blog post explaining the changes, Sam Lessin, Facebook's director of product, said the tool was "very limited in scope, and didn't prevent people from finding others in many other ways across the site."

This, of course, opens up lots of exciting new revenue opportunities in the search area. Mark Zuckerberg said recently that Facebook's internal search engine was handling about a billion queries a month, which is chicken feed compared to Google and Bing, but (Zuck would argue) it's the quality, not the quantity, that counts.

Everyone's going to be getting a message about the new changes, and the company told El Reg that there would also be video tutorials posted online for those that need them. Based on the screenshots released on Wednesday, the changes do look like a good simplification of the notoriously-complex system in place today.

It's been just two days since its users failed to rustle up the 300 million or so votes required to block the changes Facebook proposed, and the company reported that less than one per cent of the user base voted against the changes – 589,141 out of 668,872 in the official audit. But while the voting system is gone, the company says it's is still listening.

"We understand that many of you feel strongly about maintaining the participatory nature of our site governance process. We do too," said Elliot Schrage, Facebook's VP of communications.

"We believe that having a meaningful dialogue with our community through our notice and comment process is core to that effort moving forward. We also plan to explore and implement new, innovative and effective ways to enhance this process in order to maximize user engagement."

The changes will be rolled out in the next week or so on a global basis, once the final code has been tested, so everyone should be updated in time to edit out the New Year's celebration pictures they'd rather forget. ®

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