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Social-networking site Facebook is displayed on a laptop screen.Dan Kitwood

Facebook is overhauling its complicated privacy controls in an attempt to simplify them for its more than 200 million users.

The changes will be rolled out gradually over the next several weeks.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based social networking site says the new settings will give people greater control over which photos, updates and personal details they share with their friends, family and strangers on Facebook and beyond.

To make the settings easier, Facebook is consolidating its existing six privacy pages and more than 30 settings on to a single privacy page. It will also standardize the options for each setting so the choices are always the same, which hasn't always been the case.

Facebook's chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, said in a conference call with reporters that the changes don't have anything to do with advertising or the information Facebook is going to make available to advertisers.

Rather, the site wants people "to be able to share information with as many or as few people as they choose."

The changes come as Facebook tries to become a broadly used destination, competing not just with other social networks like Twitter and MySpace but also more established hubs like Google and Yahoo.

To do this, Facebook needs its 200 million-plus users to share content and interact with more people than their close friends and families. To make this more palatable, the site will let users assign different privacy settings to each piece of information they make available on Facebook. This includes photos, contact information and work info, as well as status updates, links and photos.

The site is also getting rid of its regional networks. Facebook said those separate zones have led to too much confusion over which information can be widely seen or kept relatively private. In the past, someone who joined a New York network, for example, could inadvertently make personal information available to everyone else in that network, including complete strangers.

Facebook will continue to have social networks related to schools and work.

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