After years of criticism over its lax approach to user privacy, Facebook has rolled out a host of features that allow users to keep greater control over their personal data. The major new change announced by Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg yesterday is a feature called Facebook Groups, which allows the site's users to create smaller, private groups of their own. Other features include the ability to download all your data in a single "zip" file and a "dashboard" where Facebookers can easily decide which third-party applications can access their information. Will Facebook's new features finally silence its privacy critics? (Watch a demo of Facebook Groups)
This is a move in the right direction: These changes "mark something of a shift in Facebook's attitude towards online privacy," says The Economist. After years of "taking action only when its users kicked up a huge public fuss," Facebook has tackled its problems "without having its arm twisted." This is a "laudable departure," and one that will go a long way to improving trust in the "world's largest online social network."
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They help, but there could be a negative side effect: These features will "fundamentally change the way many people use the site," says PC World. The new Groups section is essentially a "walled garden" within the confines of Facebook and will undoubtedly prevent users from "accidentally oversharing with the wrong audience." The only risk is that the site will become more "self-segregated," or cliquey — but that's a decent price to pay for privacy.
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Zuckerberg still has a long way to go: These changes represent a "big step in the right direction," says Stephen Hutcheon at The Sydney Morning Herald, but there is still "a gulf between Facebook's concept of the norm and everyone else's." The company must be more transparent about the "extent of the vast trove of personal metadata" that it holds on its users, or face being labeled a "data miner posing as a social network" for some time to come.
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