Facebook comes under heavy criticism from users and security commentators after it changes policy on privacy controls

Facebook has come under heavy criticism over privacy settings after users were warned about changes to the controls on its homepage.

The message tells users of the social networking site ‘we're making some changes to give you more control of your information and help you stay connected. We've simplified the Privacy page and added the ability to set privacy on everything you share, from status updates to photos.

“At the same time, we're helping everyone find and connect with each other by keeping some information - like your name and profile picture - publicly available.” A guide is then offered to help the user control their privacy settings.

However criticism has been made on the language used in the guide, while users have hit out at the removal of the right to display profiles to certain friends. One user said: “I could previously customise my friends list visibility - not only as to make it not visible to non friends- but I could choose which one of my friends could not view it. With [these] new privacy settings I cannot, it's either everyone can see it or no one. This way you have restricted my range of choice...everyone's range of choice actually!”

Many other users hit out at the rights of everyone being able to see a user's friends list, with many users commenting that they wanted the settings restored. One user said: “Seriously. You don't just go and remove privacy from 350 million users. Seriously, Facebook. Who the hell do you think you are? If hackers made everyone's profile pictures public there would be an uproar.”

Sophos has also warned users against blindly following Facebook's new privacy settings, as some users may not be aware that Facebook's recommendations include third party search engines and external websites, and changes to privacy settings that they may have previously enabled to better protect themselves from identity thieves.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said: “These could be the most important clicks you ever make on Facebook. If you don't read carefully you could find that every post you make on Facebook, and your personal information, is visible to everyone in the world who has a computer rather than just your Facebook friends.

“Let's make this clear. If you make your information available to ‘everyone', it actually means ‘everyone, forever'. Because even if you change your mind, it's too late - and although Facebook say they will remove it from your profile they will have no control about how it is used outside of Facebook.”

Meanwhile Chris Boyd, director of research at FaceTime Security Labs, said that with Facebook privacy settings such as those, ‘I might as well put my details on a flyer in a London phone box'.

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