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Facebook Giving Users More Privacy Control

SAN FRANCISCO - Facebook has overhauled its privacy settings to give its millions of users control of who sees what they're up to on their personal pages.

The social-networking giant on Wednesday began requiring its more than 350 million users to review and update their privacy settings for each piece of content they post to Facebook.

The move comes as a trove of information about consumers is being made available on the Internet, and as search engines increasingly incorporate content from social-media services. Facebook, meanwhile, faces stiffening competition from rivals such as Twitter in becoming the foremost online source of information about people in real time.

Facebook's so-called personalized privacy model features new controls intended to simplify privacy settings that previously flummoxed many. Members will be able to choose a privacy setting for any photos or other content they share on the site. Choices are "friends" only, "friends of friends," ''everyone" or a customized group, such as "high school buddies."

Members can keep their old settings or accept recommendations from Facebook based on how their profile is set up.

In addition, Facebook is discontinuing its regional networks, because many of them - particularly London, with 5.8 million members - are too big.

Privacy is a lingering concern for many Facebook members, who post an average of 35 million status updates daily and some 3.5 billion pieces of content - be it Web links, photos, notes - each week.

The company revised its privacy policy because of feedback from users and privacy advocates, spokesman Barry Schnitt says.

While most privacy experts lauded the changes, some think Facebook has more work to do.

"We like to see Facebook put privacy front and center," says Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for the ACLU of Northern California. "But if you peek around the corner, you realize today's changes are making some privacy disappear."

For example, she says publicly available information for all users - their profile photos, current city, friends list, gender and fan pages - can be viewed by anyone on the Internet.

Facebook countered that users can easily remove their profile from searches on Facebook and Google.

Ari Schwartz, vice president at Center for Democracy&Technology, says new privacy directions could result in people accidentally posting more information than they intended.

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