Facebook, the second most popular US social networking site, has backed down in a privacy row with its users, adding controls to two new services that allowed them to track their friends’ activities online.

The site, which has over 9 million members, said they would now be allowed to control information provided about them through the News Feed and Mini Feed features it launched last week. Around 600,000 members had petitioned the site to scrap the services amid privacy fears.

We really messed this one up,” said chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on the site’s official blog. “When we launched News Feed and Mini Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them.”

The incident highlights how easily networking sites and their advertisers can be caught out. The new services didn’t provide any information on users that wasn’t available already, but made the information more easy to see. In the petition, members described them as “creepy”.

The protests also didn’t come at a good time for Facebook, considering its popularity with students and that the start of their year is a big time for new subscriptions.