Facebook enables ad system opt-out

Facebook is giving users the chance to opt out of its SocialAds system to allay growing privacy concerns.

The social networking site is attempting to boost its privacy controls by allowing consumers to remove themselves from the system, which automatically alerts a user's Facebook friends about their recent purchases from online retailers.

Facebook launched the SocialAds service last Nov-ember as part of its Beacon advertising platform, which allows brands to build custom-designed pages on the site, including photos, videos, music and widgets.

The social networking brand has since suffered a backlash from users concerned that too many of their personal details were being shared with advertisers. A number of high-profile brands including Coca-Cola, Blockbuster and eBay, suspended their use of the Beacon platform to avoid alienating consumers.

The creation of an opt-out clause for SocialAds is intended to win back consumer trust thus ensuring the survival of Facebook's fledgling commercial offering. However, if users take up the option in their droves, it could make it hard for the social network to effectively profit from its 12.8m UK monthly unique users.

Facebook users will also be able to set separate privacy settings for each of their friends, giving them more control over how much information, such as photos, videos and news feeds, is accessible by 'friends of friends'.

In a separate initiative, the social networking site has revealed plans to challenge AOL and Microsoft with the launch of an instant messaging service.

The application will be free and allow chats to take place between individual social network users. However, it will not initially support chats between multiple friends, or with web users who do not have a Facebook account.

Facebook recently suffered its first decline in UK user numbers for 18 months. It suffered a 5% fall in users to 8.5m in January, according to Nielsen Online.

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