Facebook announces new privacy and chat features

Facebook has updated its privacy features so that users can control information they share over the networking site, making it easier to block certain information from being seen by co-workers or family, for example.

Facebook said that the two main updates were a standardised privacy interface and new options to share information with friends of friends.

The new privacy options build on the friend lists feature added in December. They allow users far more control over which posted information is shared and with whom.

As of today, users will be able to control aspects such as which of their friends can see them online; which friends can see status updates; and limit information such as education or work details to whomever they choose.

The company said that it has upgraded the privacy system because it was originally designed for an homogenous group of people who did not have different needs. However, it added that at the moment only around 25% of users have changed their privacy settings from the default.

Facebook has also confirmed that it will be introducing a chat feature in the coming weeks, which will work within the site, without anything being downloaded.

It is treading carefully over the issue of privacy after a backlash from users when it tried to introduce a system called Facebook Beacon, which would have shared information about sites that users were surfing with advertisers.

It was drastically scaled back after a petition by Facebook users and US liberal campaigning group Move On.

At the same time as catering to those who are concerned about what the wider world knows about them, Facebook has acknowledged that "some people do want to be more public than others and we will be offering additional options in the future".

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