SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook, the world's largest online social network, has agreed to tighten up security procedures after coming under fire for invading the privacy of its 250 million users.

The company says it will give customers more control over the personal information they share with third-party applications such as games and quizzes, as well as clarify what happens to data when users de-activate an account. The organisation said the changes would take up to a year to implement.

People currently wishing to use third-party software have to agree to share all their personal details. From now on, users will be asked to give explicit permission before specific details are used.

Facebook has struggled with communicating its privacy policies to its rapidly growing number of account-holders. Privacy has been a central issue because so many people use the five-year-old network to share personal information with their friends and family.

The changes will have significant implications for software developers who have built profitable businesses creating applications for Facebook users.

Last month, Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, accused Facebook of disclosing personal information about its users to around a million third-party developers around the world.

Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications and public policy at the firm, said that the changes set a new standard for the entire social networking industry. 

“Our productive and constructive dialogue with the commissioner's office has given us an opportunity to improve our policies and practices in a way that will provide even greater transparency and control for Facebook users," he commented.

Data sourced from The Times; additional content by WARC staff