Facebook hints that simpler privacy settings are on their way

Facebook’s top public policy official in Washington D.C. hinted that the social network may offer simpler privacy settings in the next few weeks.

“Now we’ve heard from our users that we have gotten a little bit complex,” said Tim Sparapani in a radio interview Tuesday. “I think we are going to work on that. We are going to be providing options for users who want simplistic bands of privacy that they can choose from, and I think we will see that in the next couple of weeks.” The full recording of Sparapani’s interview is here.

Facebook has come under fire in recent weeks for its labyrinthine privacy controls, which have more than 170 options, according to a widely distributed The New York Times infographic. The company’s privacy policy is longer than the U.S. Constitution.

Facebook didn’t provide any further details on how those controls would look or how the idea for simplistic bands of privacy came about. The company could theoretically offer users four to five different kinds of settings, representing a range of privacy preferences from being completely public with the world to being relatively closed by sharing information with subgroups of friends.

Sparapani said the company had been innovating on privacy settings since its inception, but the site had grown so fast that the controls were no longer appropriate.

“Some of the privacy settings we put in place over a period of years do not actually provide real privacy when you grow that quickly,” he said, adding that what may work for a person with 50 friends becomes unwieldy when that person grows their network to 450 friends.

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