Thursday, June 13, 2024

Facebook Retools With Focus on User Control

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Social networking colossus Facebook rolled out an ambitious set of new features on Wednesday, each aimed at giving users finer-grained control over their activities and interactions on the site.

The changes include an overhaul of Facebook Groups, which the company is retooling to make more suitable to smaller, more closely connected sets of people, such as an extended family or a sports team.

Membership is by invitation only, and currently capped at 250 people, which Facebook says will encourage more intimate, meaningful groups to form.

“We’ve long heard that people would find Facebook more useful if it were easier to connect with smaller groups of their friends instead of always sharing with everyone they know,” Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post.

“Until now, Facebook has made it easy to share with all of your friends or with everyone, but there hasn’t been a simple way to create and maintain a space for sharing with the small communities of people in your life, like your roommates, classmates, co-workers and family.”

Now, when any member posts an update to the group, all other members will receive a notification.

The company is also deploying a feature it’s calling group chat, a multi-person instant-messaging-like service that Facebook engineer Daniel Chai called “one of our most frequently requested features.”

“Until now, you’ve only been able to chat with one person at a time on Facebook. Now you can chat with everyone in your group at once,” Chai said.

In a nod to the persistent privacy complaints that have dogged Facebook and other Web companies that stockpile large volumes of data about their users, Facebook is rolling out a dashboard that gives members a window into how their information is being collected and used. Members will also have the option to tweak the settings in the dashboard to limit the amount of information that third-party applications on the site collect about them.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that you want more control over what you share on Facebook — to manage exactly who sees it and to understand exactly where it goes,” Zuckerberg said. “With this new Groups experience and the other tools we’re rolling out today, we’re taking a few important steps forward towards giving you precise controls.”

In addition to the privacy dashboard, Facebook is rolling out a new download feature that will allow users to retrieve all of the information they have ever posted to the site in a .zip file.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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