Just An Online Minute... Facebook Adds Privacy Controls, IM

Facebook has added new privacy tools that give members the ability to decide which other users can view photos, phone numbers and other personal information.

Facebook also recently started allowing people to opt out of SocialAds, which tell members which of their friends have signed on as fans of particular marketers. One of the complaints about that program is that it violates users' right of publicity -- a variation of privacy rights -- by harnessing their name and image for commercial purposes. Users still can't opt out of receiving the ads, but can at least veto the use of their own image in product endorsements.

Considering that the site has been plagued with privacy complaints since at least September 2006, when it introduced RSS news feeds to inform members of changes to their friends' profiles, not to mention the debacle of Beacon -- a program that told members about their friends' purchases -- any move to enhance privacy can only help the company's reputation.



With the new controls, it also appears the site is increasingly taking on the traits of an e-mail channel or other utility. For instance, if users want to share a photo with just two or three people, they can now upload it to the site and use the privacy controls to grant access to just those people, rather than e-mailing it to them. Additionally, Facebook is taking another step in the utility direction with a new IM program, set to launch in the next two weeks

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