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Facebook hopes privacy worries go the way of the dinosaur

Facebook hopes its new blue dinosaur will encourage users to review their security settings

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Persuasion Notebook offers quick hits on the business of persuasion from The Globe and Mail's marketing and advertising reporter, Susan Krashinsky. Read more on The Globe's marketing page and follow Susan on Twitter @Susinsky.

Microsoft Corp. had Clippy, the annoying animated paper clip that offered users help in its Office programs. Now, Facebook Inc. has a nameless blue dinosaur they hope will put a warm and fuzzy take on privacy.

On Thursday, Facebook announced that after a test phase, it was bringing the blue dinosaur into wider use. The little character will pop up with a dialogue box encouraging Facebook users to review their privacy settings on their account.

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The move is an attempt by the social media giant to address privacy concerns of some of its users. It also announced another change, making the default setting on posts of photos and updates to each user's friends only. The former default was a public setting until users changed it.

"People sometimes feel like their information is more public than they want," said Mike Nowak, privacy product manager for Facebook. "That's an experience we want to help people avoid. We want people to ultimately feel in control when they use Facebook."

The world's largest social network is depending on moves like this to avoid an erosion of its user base – a crucial measure to keep attracting the advertising revenue it depends on.

It added the cartoon dinosaur to its messages both to give them a friendly look, and to draw the eye, Mr. Nowak said. In test phases, its research found that people paid more attention to the messages with the dinosaur attached. And 80 per cent of people who say the dinosaur found it helpful.

Facebook will hope he does not go the way of Clippy.

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