Facebook is to remove its regional networks and create a simpler model for privacy control.

In an open letter to all of the social networking site's 350 million users, currently being hosted on the home page, founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed that it had been a 'great year for making the world more open and connected'.

Zuckerberg said: “Facebook's current privacy model revolves around 'networks' - communities for your school, your company or your region. This worked well when Facebook was mostly used by students, since it made sense that a student might want to share content with their fellow students.

“Over time people also asked us to add networks for companies and regions as well. Today we even have networks for some entire countries, like India and China. 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.”

Zuckerberg acknowledged that with almost 50 per cent of all Facebook users being members of regional networks, it is possible that a member's details and photos could be seen by more than 100 million people.

Therefore, the Facebook plan 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.

Zuckerberg said: “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.”

Users will be asked to review and update their privacy settings in the coming weeks with a message received that will explain the changes and take the user to a page where they can update their settings. To clarify, when they are finished, they will be shown a confirmation page so they can make sure the right settings were chosen.

“We've worked hard to build controls that we think will be better for you, but we also understand that everyone's needs are different. We'll suggest settings for you based on your current level of privacy, but the best way for you to find the right settings is to read through all your options and customise them for yourself. I encourage you to do this and consider who you're sharing with online,” Zuckerberg concluded.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, told SC Magazine that he felt anything Facebook can do to clarify the privacy settings on their network has to be a good thing, but the number of changes they have made over the last few years must be confusing to users.

Cluley said: “At the moment the privacy settings are a complex mishmash, and it's no wonder that many users find it a struggle to unravel them all and work out how best to protect their personal information. My guess is that, as a result, most people simply don't bother.

"At Sophos we became concerned about the privacy issues revolving around regional networks some time ago, and raised a warning that it was all too easy to reveal your private information to, say, everyone based in London. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating - and we'll have to see how Facebook actually implements changes to its privacy options.

"Ultimately users may wish to remember that if they want to be confident that they're not sharing sensitive information with unapproved people, it might be wisest not to upload it to Facebook in the first place.”