Facebook simplifies privacy controls for applications

Facebook unveiled new controls Wednesday designed to give users more power over how they share information with third-party applications.

Facebook's privacy controls have been a topic of debate in Washington recently, as users have had difficulty understanding exactly who or what applications have access to their profiles and posted content. The site updated its user privacy controls in May in response to the criticism; today's announcement is the next step in the social network's plan to create simpler and more transparent privacy controls.

The majority of Facebook users interact with third-party applications on the site, some of which require permission to capture a user's profile information. Additionally, many websites accept Facebook login information as validation to comment or post content. Spokesman Andrew Noyes said there are currently 550,000 active applications on Facebook and more than a million websites integrated into the platform.

The company's chief technology officer, Bret Taylor, announced the changes on the company's blog and said applications must now ask before accessing a user's private information. They must also specify which private content the application will access; profile information made public may still be accessed without notification.

"These improvements reflect two core Facebook beliefs: first, your data belongs to you; second, it should be easy to control what you share," Taylor writes. "If at any point you ask a developer to remove the data you've granted them access to, we require that that they delete this information."

All authorized applications can access a user's name, profile picture, gender and network. According to Taylor that information is public to make it easier to find a user's profile. Users can also control how much information their friends can share about them with third-party applications.