Facebook hands users a bundle of their own data

Facebook has unveiled tools to give users more control over personal information and let them set up closed groups of friends.

Facebook hands users a bundle of their own data

Facebook, which has come under fire for inadequate privacy controls, will provide users with a special file containing all the personal data they have uploaded to the service.

“If you want a copy of the information you’ve put on Facebook for any reason, you can click a link and easily get a copy of all of it in a single download,” Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post.

Users will first have to enter in their password and other security questions to protect the data, he added. The feature will arrive in most accounts today, he said.


What The Social Network gets wrong about Facebook

A new privacy dashboard is also being rolled out, which will let users monitor which third-party applications have access to their data.

“As you start having more social and personalised experiences across the web, it’s important that you can verify exactly how other sites are using your information to make your experience better,” he said.

“As this rolls out, in your Facebook privacy settings, you will have a single view of all the applications you’ve authorised and what data they use. You can also see in detail when they last accessed your data,” he added. “You can change the settings for an application to make less information available to it, or you can even remove it completely.”


The new “Groups” feature makes it easier for its half-billion users to interact with select circles of friends, instead of having photos and personal messages openly viewable to family, college buddies and colleagues alike.

Zuckerberg said the change – which analysts say is intended partly to mirror the various circles that people navigate in actual life – should make people even more comfortable publishing personal information on the service.

If we can do this, then we can unlock a huge amount of sharing that people want to do

“If we can do this, then we can unlock a huge amount of sharing that people want to do, but today they just can’t do, because either it’s too annoying, or there just aren’t the right privacy settings to be able to do this at large scale,” Zuckerberg told reporters at his Palo Alto, California headquarters.

That expands a feature already available on the website, which lets users create custom friend lists. But Zuckerberg said a mere 5% of Facebook’s users have availed themselves of that tool.

In contrast, Zuckerberg said he expected up to 80% of Facebook’s users to eventually belong to customised groups on the site.

Its new groups feature comes a few months after a Google staffer published a white-paper identifying the inability of social networks such as Facebook to distinguish between the multiple social groups that an individual belongs to in real life.

“It’s a bit of a preemptive strike against Google,” said Ray Valdes, an analyst at industry research firm Gartner.

“It’s addressing a real problem that had been a shortcoming in the Facebook service,” said Valdes. “But it also has the effect of covering (Facebook’s) flank.”

With groups, Facebook users will be able to pool their friends in different groups or circles and send messages to, or hold mass-chats online with, those groups.

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