August 14, 2012, 2:55 PM

Facebook gives user greater control over what information they share

New tools let consumers select to share information such as their check-in locations.

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Facebook Inc. has launched what it calls “explicit sharing” on applications. The tools give developers the option to add a “Sharing” section to their programs that enables users to select where they would like their activities published.

For instance, when a consumer uses an Instagram application on Facebook he can choose to share his photo in multiple ways, including on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or e-mail.

The social network allows only photos, locations and messages to be explicitly shared. Other  activities may not be explicitly shared, for example what a consumer is doing within the application, which may include what he is listening to, reading and watching, or his engagement with social features like the Want button.

Explicitly shared actions appear on the left side of Facebook users’ timelines and they may also appear as stand-alone stories in their friends’ news feeds. The news feed is the first page a consumer sees when logging on to the social network. It displays updates from other users and fan pages they’ve Liked. The timeline is a virtual scrapbook that features a graphical and chronological timeline of a consumer’s life events and other information or posts that she chooses to share, such as photos.  

Actions within applications that are not explicitly shared will appear in the ticker, which features updates on what a Facebook user’s friends are doing at that moment on the right-hand side of the screen on Facebook.com. Those actions may also appear in aggregated news feed postings that show, for instance, several songs she has listened to. Those actions will also appear in aggregated postings in her timeline.

The rollout of explicit sharing is a pivot for Facebook. When the social network launched applicationslast fall it aimed to share all of a shopper’s actions with an application after she gave a one-time authorization. That activity would then be featured in her ticker and appear in the news feeds of some of her friends. Facebook determines which updates appear in consumers’ news feeds using an algorithm that analyzes their interactions on the social network—posts, Likes and other activity—to present them with the most relevant stories.

The new tools, which Facebook engineer Naitik Shah announced in a blog post, make it clearer to consumers how their actions will be shared. Shah says Facebook expects the change will drive more traffic to applications that consumers use to proactively share content to Facebook. "We're excited to make the Open Graph experience better match users' expectations and give greater distribution to the activity that people explicitly choose to share," wrote Shah.

 

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