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Facebook users will get a spring privacy cleaning

Issues of privacy have usually been a bête noire for Facebook (FB). Either something goes wrong or the company shifts its privacy settings, leaving users playing catchup.

At a time when reports of security breaches at companies are common and news of further revelations of government spying on citizens common, Facebook has changed directions. The company's latest privacy foray has been to make things easier and more secure for consumers. But no matter how Facebook tries to improve privacy controls on the surface, the company still makes its money by knowing as much as possible about the consumers who use its service.

The changes Facebook has begun to implement focus on how users choose their privacy settings. In various ways, users can restrict which information of theirs is available to be viewed by others, but many are uncomfortable with using the controls or might assume that posts, images, videos and other items have more restrictive permissions than is actually the case.

New users will find that Facebook defaults their first post to be seen only by friends rather than as public, which gives anyone access. People will still be able to change the setting if they want, but if they forget, it won't be the equivalent of having an open house and accidentally inviting the entire world.

Over the next few weeks, existing users will learn of a new privacy checkup tool that will review your settings and give you a chance to make changes regarding how restricted posts should be or what apps get access to your accounts.

The actions make it seem as though Facebook management has become more concerned about privacy, which could be the case. However, the biggest loss of personal privacy at the online service comes from data it collects and then uses to further tailor its marketing and advertising. An example might be Facebook's newly announced service that can listen to music or video and attempt to identify the material.

Making information more private in the way Facebook intends means potentially fewer other users will have access. But Facebook's terms of service still allow the company to use anything and everything people post to improve how it targets marketing on behalf of advertisers.

Erik Sherman

Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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