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Facebook Prompts Users to Check on Their Privacy Settings

Facebook Inc. will prompt all of its users to review their privacy settings on the social network, taking steps to reassure members that they’re in control of what they share.

The company has defended itself against privacy critics by saying its 1.3 billion members can customize preferences on how widely to share photos, status updates, likes and other actions. Users have countered that the settings are hard to understand. Today, all Facebook visitors on desktop computers will be asked to go through a checklist in case they want to change anything.

The broad outreach is the most public action by the world’s largest social network to assuage user concerns about how their information is displayed. In recent months, the company has faced skepticism over its messaging application, which gets a 1.5-star rating in Apple Inc.’s store in part because of questions about how Facebook will enact its terms of service. A mood experiment Facebook ran in 2012 by manipulating users’ News Feeds also led privacy groups to file complaints.

“This is part of a whole line of work we’re doing to help people share with who they want,” said Paddy Underwood, product manager for privacy, in an interview. “We’ve tried to be more communicative about how these things actually work.”

Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, will ask users to review whom they’re sharing status updates with, check who can see their profile information and decide whether to remove any apps that have permission to connect with their accounts.

Questions about Web privacy and security rose in prominence this week after personal photos from some celebrities’ individual Apple accounts were stolen. Apple, maker of the iPhone, said the data was compromised through an attack on user names, passwords and security questions.

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