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picture-31Today, Facebook is announcing simpler ways for users to share information. I’m on a briefing call with a bunch of other reporters, listening to Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly and product manager Leah Pearlman walk us through a presentation about the specific changes the company is currently testing out.

The big news is a new, simplified menu for sharing pieces of information, and a clearer menu for what sort of personal information about yourself can be seen by others. As you can see in the screenshot above, the new sharing menu lets you choose whether you want to share with everyone, workplace networks, friends, friends-of-friends, or custom lists of people. You can also block certain people from seeing what you share. Some of these features have already been available but in a variety of different menus with differing options for what can be shared and who it can be shared with. The new menus, designated by the lock icon, will appear more uniformly across the site, whether you’re trying to share a link or decide or who can see what information in your personal profile.

The big picture here is that Facebook wants people to feel secure knowing who they’re sharing with, so they’ll share as much information as possible. The more data that Facebook has about who is sharing what, the more it can target ads to those people as well as have more places to serve ads.

This follows up on previous changes, including the removal of regional networks and a new “publisher” feature. Facebook says the publisher, introduced last week, “is proving quite effective” — it lets people decide how individual items should be shared. The company also explained why it started removing generic regional “networks” — like “San Francisco” or “Spain” — a month ago. The way Facebook had defined these networks didn’t capture how people were trying to share information on the site: networks were of widely different sizes, they confused people about what they were sharing with whom, and only had partial adoption.

Facebook describes the changes as trying to emphasize “connecting, control and simplicity”. The  “unified privacy page” in the user settings section lets people more easily fine-tune what other information about  themselves gets shared — who can see your birthday, for example.

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The company is also testing out various methods of explaining the transition to the new features. Expect those to change more. See sample screenshots, below.

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