Facebook unveils new privacy features

The social network is implementing shortcut tools that are designed to help users make changes to their privacy settings more quickly without having to click through to other webpages. Users will be able to go to the toolbar on the top of the webpage to modify who can see the content they post, who can contact them on the social network or stop another user from contacting them.

Users will also be able to access the full privacy settings page via the new privacy shortcut tool.

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In addition, Facebook is rolling out new app permission requests that it says are intended to help users have more control over the information they share. Users will now receive a permission request when an app wants to access their information, such as their email address or friends list, and another request when the app wants to post something on their behalf to the website.

The two-app permission requests were originally combined in the same pop-up box. The aim was to send the same information to users "but not all at once," so it's "easier for people to digest," said Rob Sherman, manager of privacy and public policy at Facebook, in an interview with The Hill.

The company has also updated its "Activity Log" feature on the site so people can more easily see items they've liked, posts they're tagged in and photos of themselves by clicking through designated tabs on the left-hand side of the screen. With these updates, the company believes people can easily review what content they're tagged in on the social networking site.

In addition, Facebook has added new notifications across the social network informing users that content they hide from their timeline can still be seen by others in its news feed, search feature and other places on the site. Sherman said this is aimed at minimizing users' surprise when they see a piece of content appear on another part of the site, even if they hid it from their timeline.

"We want people to pay attention to the audience [viewing] their posts," Sherman said.

"Surprises are bad for us, and bad for users," he added.

The social network also designed a feature that makes it easier for people to ask friends to remove multiple photos they don't like, as well as untag themselves in several photos at once. However, the social network will note that untagged photos will still appear in other places on the site, such as people's news feeds.

Facebook has been scrutinized by regulators in the United States and abroad for how it protects user data and informs users about its privacy policies. The Federal Trade Commission approved a settlement with Facebook in August over charges that the social network "deceived" users by sharing information that it had originally said it would keep private.

As part of the settlement, Facebook agreed to get consent from users before sharing their information beyond their specified privacy settings and obtain biennial privacy audits from a third party.

"These changes, even though they're not requested by regulators, they're consistent with the discussions that we've had" with them," Sherman said.