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Facebook Hoping New Privacy Policy Will Click with Users

Facebook Safety Center

Some new features of the safety center include four times more content on staying safe, such as dealing with bullying online, an interactive portal and a simpler design. (Facebook)

Facebook plans to simplify its privacy policy next week, according to several sources. But the site will be hard-pressed to satisfy critics on Capitol Hill.

Growing concerns about privacy on Facebook -- including the revelation that the popular social network may have been unwittingly sharing private data with advertisers -- are leading to mounting criticism from users and politicians to revise Facebook's privacy policy. Now Facebook is preparing to make changes.

The website QuitFacebookDay.com endorses ditching the popular social network entirely on May 31, and more than 12,000 users have already signed on to do so. The site cites privacy concerns as one of the primary reasons for quitting Facebook.

"We ... don't think Facebook has much respect for you or your data," reads a statement at the site. It goes on to note that "for a lot of people, quitting Facebook revolves around privacy. This is a legitimate concern, but we also think the privacy issue is just the symptom of a larger set of issues."

Facebook has been under fire from a trio of Washington senators as well. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, Al Franken, D-MN, and Mike Bennet, D-CO, recently demanded a simplified process for managing privacy, including changes to the opt in, "instant personalization" model, which by default allows Facebook to publicize information about someone's likes and dislikes that consumers may want to keep confidential. 

Following their April 27 press conference, in which Schumer revealed that his own daughter was incensed after her information was exposed, Facebook officials held a private meeting with Schumer’s staff, according to sources on Capitol Hill. These sources tell FoxNews.com that Facebook will announce a new privacy policy as early as next week.

Facebook confirmed that changes are coming, but would not tell FoxNews.com precisely when the changes will be unveiled. According to spokesman Andrew Noyes, the company has heard the complaints of users and politicians, and plans to act. “We’re listening to this input and incorporating it into innovations we hope to announce shortly."

Noyes explained that Facebook wants to be known for innovations around user control as well as innovations around sharing. But the message from users has been pretty clear, he says. "Users appreciate having precise and comprehensive controls, but want them to be simpler and easier to use. They also like the new programs we have rolled out, but want simple and easy ways to opt out of sharing personal information with applications and websites through Facebook Platform."

The exact nature of the planned changes remains to be seen, however, and sources on Capitol Hill tell FoxNews.com that while the changes will probably be welcomed, they may not go as far as some would like. 

In other words, don't expect a complete change of direction. Facebook's recent changes have been intended to sharing increasing amounts and types of information, and the site will most likely continue to do so.

People like Schumer, who demanded that "the default position should be that the information is not shared" may be disappointed. But simplification of the website's privacy settings -- described by most as overly complex -- is certain to be welcome. 

Jeremy A. Kaplan is Science and Technology editor at FoxNews.com, where he heads up coverage of gadgets, the online world, space travel, nature, the environment, and more. Prior to joining Fox, he was executive editor of PC Magazine, co-host of the Fastest Geek competition, and a founding editor of GoodCleanTech.