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Amagnifying glass is posed over a monitor displaying a Facebook page in Munich. (Joerg Koch/AP)
Amagnifying glass is posed over a monitor displaying a Facebook page in Munich. (Joerg Koch/AP)

Facebook to unveil privacy program in effort to reassure users Add to ...

Facebook Inc. is expanding a campaign it hopes will ease concerns over the privacy of users on the world’s largest social network.

Starting on Thursday, users everywhere will start seeing a program of privacy “checkups,” following experiments with the measure earlier this year.

In May, after some initial testing, Facebook announced the launch of a pop-up window on its service that features a nameless blue dinosaur. The cartoon puts a friendly face on a program to help Facebook users double-check their privacy settings.

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Now, it is making the checkups – and the friendly dinosaur – universal for users accessing Facebook on computers around the world. A mobile version of the checkups is still to come.

Those who agree to a checkup will have the chance to review and adjust who sees their posts; delete or control the privacy settings of apps connected to their accounts; and either remove or restrict visibility of key information on their profiles, such as their current city, workplace, or home town.

“We wanted to bring the privacy checkup to everyone on Facebook,” said Paddy Underwood, product manager for privacy with the company.

In testing, Facebook research found that the dinosaur helped people to pay more attention to the messages. Of those who saw the dinosaur in test phases, 80 per cent reported finding it helpful.

The program is an example of a philosophical shift for Facebook: while previously, founder Mark Zuckerberg has spoken of privacy as a thing of the past, now the company is seeking to reassure users that the often very personal information they have shared via their accounts is safe.

The global advertising industry has been making similar efforts, launching self-regulatory measures to give consumers more information about how they are tracked online and how advertisers use that information to show them targeted ad messages.

Facebook overwhelmingly depends on advertising for its revenue, so providing an environment where people have control over their information – along with the reams of data on their lives that is so useful to advertisers – is important for the company going forward. It is also an important measure to convince the users that advertisers are flocking to, not to abandon their accounts.

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