Facebook Set to Roll Out New Privacy Controls

BY Jenny Marder  May 26, 2010 at 9:27 AM EDT

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be rolling out simplified privacy controls Wednesday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Facebook will unveil new, easier-to-use privacy controls Wednesday, a company executive announced on Tuesday.

The announcement comes after heavy criticism, threats of boycotts and general user unrest over the popular social networking site’s recent changes to user privacy setting controls. Among the changes: Facebook quietly made larger chunks of profile information public, and later announced an “Instant Personalization Project,” which would share some user data with partners like Yelp and Pandora.

In response, groups formed to boycott the site. One growing Internet movement, QuitFacebookDay.com, has urged its members to collectively disable their Facebook accounts on Monday. Other websites are providing users with step-by-step tutorials on how to disable their accounts.

Facebook is expected to dial back these changes as part of its new policy. In an op-ed published in Monday’s Washington Post, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote:

“Sometimes we move too fast – and after listening to recent concerns we’re responding….In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services.”

Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says it’s a problem when people lose control over their personal profiles. Specifically, he takes issue with allowing certain sites access to data without user consent. “It’s information that certainly identifies you and gives a fairly complete dossier of your likes and dislikes,” says Bankston. “Information that most people shared with Facebook with an understanding that it was just for their friends and family, not for the sites that Facebook chooses to partner with.”

Mashable‘s Pete Cashmore agrees that the Instant Personalization Project may have gone too far but considers user resistance an inevitable result of the company’s attempt to advance the web. Becoming increasingly public is simply the way the world is going, says Cashmore. “They’re trying to break the mold. And this is all just a symptom of them doing innovative things….They certainly need to convince the users that public is a good thing to be.”

We’ll have more on the new privacy settings later Wednesday.