Facebook puts privacy controls in users' hands

Social networking site trying out feature that lets users pinpoint who gets their posts

Facebook Inc. yesterday moved to give its users more control over who can see their postings on the site.

The social networking powerhouse launched a beta version of its updated Facebook Publisher tool, which adds a Privacy Control feature designed to let users pick and choose who can see their posts.

"You may have some posts you want to share with a wide audience, such as whom you voted for or how great the weather is today," Olaoluwa Okelola, a Facebook engineer, said in a blog post. "Other times, you may have more personal updates like your new phone number or an invitation to join you at your favorite restaurant for dinner that are meant for only close or nearby friends."

Okelola noted that the updated tool will ask users 'Who do you want to tell?' after each response they make to 'What's on your mind?' The answer will determine what Facebook friends get to see a user's posts, pictures and video.

To access the privacy controls, users can click on the lock icon in the lower right-hand corner of the Publisher page to access a drop-down menu of options, according to Okelola. From there, they can choose to make their posting available to anyone on and off Facebook, only confirmed friends, or friends of friends.

Dan Olds, principal analyst at The Gabriel Consulting Group Inc., said the upgrade could be good for people who want to make funny or risque posts, and make sure the posts don't haunt them in the future.

"Facebook's new privacy options should be welcomed by users, particularly anyone who posts content that might not be, well, understood by their employer or, their parents," he added. "With the new options, users can keep particular posts very private, to the degree that they can even hand pick who can see the post. This should help them avoid embarrassing posts getting them in trouble with their bosses or family members."

But Olds also said there's a rub to this plan.

"In order for this to work, users need to actually use the feature," he noted. "And a user who is prone to posting risque content might not be a user who is likely to take the time and extra steps to make it private."

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