Facebook Inc. unveiled three features Wednesday that it hopes will make using the social-networking site more friendly.
The new features are designed to give users more control over how they share personal information on the site with other people and third-party applications. In the past, some users and privacy advocates have complained that Facebook made it difficult to tailor communication for different types of people, such as co-workers or close friends, as people do in the real world.
The biggest change for users will be the new groups feature, which allows people to identify small circles of friends on the site, and share specific information and communicate with just those people. Users can decide whether the groups are public or private, and choose which information they want to share with each group.
At an event at Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said that giving people more control over how they communicate with different kinds of friends is the “big problem” that social networks face, and required a “social solution” rather than a technical one. “A lot of people talk about this as a privacy problem,” Mr. Zuckerberg said of the desire to share information with subsets of friends. “But more than that, it is an annoying problem.”
The other two new features Facebook unveiled address data control issues that had been raised by privacy advocates. One is a dashboard feature that allows users to keep track of information-sharing settings from third-party apps, such as plug-ins to other websites. The dashboard also displays exactly what personal information those apps are pulling from the social network. Previously, users could only adjust individual privacy settings for apps.
Chris Conley, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said the move was a step in the right direction, but the dashboard also needed to show what information users’ friends’ apps might be accessing about them, such as birthdays or interests. A Facebook spokeswoman said the friends’ apps issue was on the company’s radar.
The third new feature allows people to export the information they have entered into Facebook into one compressed zip file.