Facebook adds extra privacy controls

Facebook adds extra privacy controls

Online chat also in the pipeline

Facebook is to introduce new controls allowing users to create privacy distinctions between friends, family and colleagues.

The features will give users more control over who sees information stored on their profile pages, choosing which friends can view photo albums, mobile phone number or email address.

Facebook has faced criticism for selling user data but backed down on the idea last year.

Users will also be able to cast their social networking efforts still further with the introduction of a 'friends-of-friends' feature that will allow them to share information about themselves with a wider group of people.

Matt Cohler, vice president of product management at Facebook, claimed that the social networking site is looking to evolve beyond the simple privacy controls designed for its original homogenous college-age user base.

"We have a lot more users, a lot more types of users, a lot more relationships, and a lot more types of relationships," he said.

Boasting 67 million users, Facebook has surged fivefold in the past 18 months, with two-thirds of its users now located outside the US.

This compares to around one in 10 a year and a half ago, when the majority of users were based in the US and of student age.

However, only one in four of the site's current membership has elected to use Facebook's existing personal information settings, the company said in a statement.

Cohler also confirmed that Facebook will launch a web-based chat application in the coming weeks, which would archive conversations for 90 days.

On the question of compatibility with other chat clients, Cohler hinted that Facebook will take an open stance.

"We want to be able to extend Facebook into as much of your use of the web as possible," he said. "Our vision is not to make Facebook an island."