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Facebook Unveils Groups, Apps Dashboard, 'Download Your Information' Features

facebook groupsThis afternoon, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled three new Facebook products in a rather wordy press conference. The first two updates deal largely with user data, portability and control. Zuck spoke about the ability of Facebook Connect to bring your personal information to other sites and services, but lamented the inability to easily take that information and look at it yourself. "Download your Information" is a new feature that allows you to download all your Facebook data, including Wall posts, friend lists, contact info and photos, in one handy ZIP file.

Easily being able download data that is rightfully yours is nice (we suppose), but the second announcement is much more practical. A new data dashboard lets you quickly see and change your settings for various Facebook apps. You can also see when the last time an application accessed your data and what specific information it pulled. The dashboard is largely a reorganization of existing privacy features, but the ability to get specific about who is accessing what will be welcomed by the paranoid.

Facebook October 2010 Event

The big announcement of the day, though, was Facebook Groups, an overhauled way of organizing your friends and contacts. Facebook already offers "lists" for dividing up your friends into groups, but the company has found that only 5-percent of users actually make use of this feature. The Groups service makes creating small clusters of people much simpler than does the existing lists feature. The Groups shared space lets smaller collections of people post photos, comments or messages. Only you and other group members can invite new members, so you'll have greater control over the group's privacy settings. Groups can also host group chat sessions (not just one-on-one conversations), and contribute to a collective, wiki-like document, whether it be a collaborative novel or a shopping list.

Zuckerberg explained that Groups should make it easier to filter out the noise and maintain an appropriate level of privacy. Rather than sharing everything with everyone, it's now simple to create small groups of your friends with similar interests or a particularly close bond. Facebook hopes to make organizing your friends into groups as simple as tagging them in photos, and if groups does indeed work this way, it should cut back on the amount of embarrassing and annoying posts flooding your news feed.

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