Facebook's privacy changes to mimic rival Twitter

Facebook will begin encouraging users to make more of their personal information public to everyone on the web, a shift that moves the company into more direct competition with micro-messaging service Twitter.

On Wednesday, the company held a conference call to discuss new changes to privacy controls on the site, and said that in the coming weeks Facebook would ask each of its 225m members to reset their privacy settings.

As part of the change, Facebook will trial different transitions tools. Some of these will offer a recommended batch of settings, which will make much more information viewable to anyone on the web than what is currently made public by default.

The recommended setting will make public a user's profile picture album, hometown and current city, bio, work and education information, and all the content a user publishes in their "stream".

This last point is key, as recent changes to Facebook's design have encouraged users to publish more status updates. Making these updates public will in effect mimic much of Twitter's functionality.

Users will also be given granular privacy settings on each piece of information and content. But for users who choose the recommended setting, they will have to explicitly choose to make each piece of content private.

Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer who is also running for California attorney general in next year's election, said the changes were designed to make privacy controls simpler for users. "We believe that when tools are simple, people are more likely to use them and understand them," said Mr Kelly.

However, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group, warned: "Changing user settings is a risky strategy, particularly in the privacy world.

"This is always what gets Facebook into trouble. It will be very important that users are not opted-in to data sharing under the new settings where they had previously opted out with the original settings."

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