Facebook is simplifying its privacy control settings in a bid to get users more comfortable with oversharing.   

Last week, Facebook announced a public status feature that emulates Twitter. And today during a conference call, the social network announced that it is simplifying its privacy settings to give users more control over where and when their information goes out into the world.

The new shift is meant to encourage Facebook users to share more — an important step if Facebook's plans for complete Internet domination are to be successful.

To date, Facebook's privacy settings have been so convoluted that many users simply ignore them (the social network's privacy controls currently occupy six separate pages and 40 different settings).

But Facebook is hoping that simpler options will help users take more control over their online persona and share more online.

The new features include a simpler status menu will help share individual pieces of information and a more succinct settings menu for the general handling of user data. (The complete slideshow from today's conference call with details on the changes can be found here).

Facebook has long kept its user information segmented from the long arm of Google, but that will soon change. Facebook will start rolling out the new settings to users in three weeks. And eventually, one option, "share with everyone," will mean the whole Internet.

Facebook usually causes an uproar when it threatens to change its privacy settings (TechCrunch is already writing about Facebook's looming privacy fiasco with this move), but this shift may mean that users actually start paying attention to where and to whom their information goes out. Or not. As long as teenage girls exist, embarrassing photos of them will exist online.

But the social network needs its users to start sharing updates with strangers if it wants to compete with Twitter's real-time news feed. And more importantly, Facebook is trying to position itself as the keeper of personal data online. For that to work, Facebook users will have to start getting comfortable with posting Facebook information and photos for the general public.

The company says that the new sharing options will not affect how Facebook gives information to advertisers. However, if Facebook gets consumers to start using their site as the home for personal data online, it would be very important for the company's advertising model.

Meghan Keane

Published 1 July, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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