facebookworld0110082.pngFacebook is eliminating regional networks after reaching more than 350 million users worldwide, rolling out changes the company proposed back in July. The problem is that many of the networks have gotten so large that they’ve essentially become meaningless in terms of privacy.

When Facebook was founded on college campuses, you could share your information with a close local community of students that you knew. Then when the company expanded worldwide, you could also share information with your city like San Francisco or New York. But now those networks are so big that it’s become basically like sharing your information with the public at large. That’s confusing users about who they’re exposing their personal information to. So the company is also adding more granular control over who sees each item you share.

The other news is that Facebook has added 50 million users in 2 1/2 months. That’s actually a bit slower than the amount of time it took for them to get from 250 to 300 million users, though still a fast pace.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a letter today:

“However, as Facebook has grown, some of these regional networks now have millions of members and we’ve concluded that this is no longer the best way for you to control your privacy. Almost 50 percent of all Facebook users are members of regional networks, so this is an important issue for us. If we can build a better system, then more than 100 million people will have even more control of their information.

The plan we’ve come up with is to remove regional networks completely and create a simpler model for privacy control where you can set content to be available to only your friends, friends of your friends, or everyone.

We’re adding something that many of you have asked for — the ability to control who sees each individual piece of content you create or upload. In addition, we’ll also be fulfilling a request made by many of you to make the privacy settings page simpler by combining some settings. If you want to read more about this, we began discussing this plan back in July.

Since this update will remove regional networks and create some new settings, in the next couple of weeks we’ll ask you to review and update your privacy settings. You’ll see a message that will explain the changes and take you to a page where you can update your settings. When you’re finished, we’ll show you a confirmation page so you can make sure you chose the right settings for you. As always, once you’re done you’ll still be able to change your settings whenever you want.”

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