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Facebook ‘Mystery’ Announcement Revealed: New User Controls

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just announced a series of new features, all designed to give users more control over their information on the site.

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He's unveiling new tools to give users control over exactly which friends and which websites can access users information.

The biggest change for users may be the introduction of a new group functionality — making it easier for users to set up and participate with groups, with chat and e-mail lists.

Three headlines:

GROUPS as "The Social Solution" — to solve what Facebook calls "The biggest problem in social networking". Zuckerberg says he wants it to be easy to map out users real-world groups, get everyone to participate, and make it useful in a lot of different contexts. Facebook's new groups feature shares space (like a web page), group chat (like a group IM) and e-mail lists. These new groups will be easy to set up, but not everyone needs to set them up themselves. People will be able to participate and interact with groups that their friends, co-workers, or family establish. Zuckerberg calls the new groups technology "a product and a fundamental building block for social networking going forward." It sounds like e-mail list services for the Facebook generation, but far more interactive with a clean, clear interface.

Zuckerberg says people's social worlds don't look like one big list of all their friends — instead it looks like lots of different groups that you want to share with in different ways. The "just your friends" setting isn't really private. This isn't just a privacy problem, this is an 'annoyance' problem — you don't want to bug all your friends with all your updates. Now the real-world groups (like family, co-workers etc) that Facebook will enable you to map out, will be useful both for privacy, for filtering, for using other applications, websites, mobile sites. Zuckerberg says if we can figure out how to do this we can unlock a huge amount of sharing.

Facebook is introducing this solution because people don't want to make lists or hand-pick sets of people to share with every time they post a status update or ask a group of friends a question. Zuckerberg says even the best product solution for creating lists only gets five percent of people to make them. This should make 'grouping' far more accessible to the mass of Facebook users.

"Download your Information" — A new product gives consumers full control of their information on the service. Zuckerberg says people own and should have full control over the information on Facebook. That means the ability to literally download your information and delete it or have it on your hard drive. The information is put into a single zip file, and Facebook will ask users to take the security implications of this information seriously — asking for password verification etc.

"Apps You Use Dashboard" — Once you've authorized applications to access your data, you can now control all that information in one interface. This combines two screens Facebook previously had separated into one simple way to control all the information going to apps you use. The dashboard will show 'permissions' to apps and websites — what information those apps and websites you've granted access to. It will also show a detailed access log of exactly what information these sites are getting over time — like what pieces of your information Trip Advisor has accessed. Facebook says this greater visibility will be great for users, but it'll also force developers to be more judicious about when and how they access your data.

Today's news follows a total overhaul of Facebook's privacy controls in late May. Facebook may highlight the value of today's announcements as part of a privacy initiative, but it will give consumers more privacy controls, and it will help address concerns raised by both users and legislators in Washington.

Here's a link to Zuckerberg's blog, entitled "Giving you more control."

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