After several weeks of controversy over its privacy settings, Facebook introduced a new set of consolidated privacy controls that, among other things, allow users to turn off third-party applications completely.

The key element of the new setting include:
- A new front-page that aggregates all privacy settings in one place. Users can select who can see what, such as friends, friends of friends, or everyone. It applies to everything from the individual entries of users profiles (about, work/education, religious views), posts created, birthday info, photos and videos, etc.

- Restricts what information can be made publicly available to names, profile pictures, gender and networks.

- Third party developers and websites now need to get express permission to run applications, what Zuckerberg says “dramatically restricted access to your information.”

- Makes it easier to turn off the “instant-personalization” feature that shares user information with certain Facebook partners automatically. It’s still opt-out, but just easier to find.

The changes (and the issues they address) are less about privacy than they are about control. Privacy is indeed important. But too often the knee-jerk reaction to services that share any type of user information (location, preferences, age, gender) from hand-wringing privacy advocates get out of control. They concoct some truly left-field scenarios that highlight the potential pitfalls of sharing data (such as that credit companies “might” lower credit score if users update their Facebook status about getting laid off). And rather than counter this message with the benefits of sharing information, too many companies instead simply restrict their capabilities.

I’m fine with advertisers and other services knowing what music and movies I like if it means it can help me discover new music or movies. I don’t want them to have my e-mail address and spam me, but what’s wrong with giving my data to Facebook partners so that when I visit their website I get a personalized and customized experience (which is what instant personalization does, in essence)? That’s a service. And for that service I must pay a price, which is: access to my preferences.

Facebook is one of the few companies trying to push those boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s not. Sometimes it pushes too far by not adequately informing users of the implications of its actions, and by not giving users easy access to controlling how their information is stored. While I’m OK with instant personalization, others may not be.

Facebook has taken the first step by providing control with these new changes. The next step needs to be explaining why—with the control they now have over their privacy settings—users should still opt to share more rather than less.

As should Facebook’s partners, like Pandora, one of the first partners benefiting from the instant personalization system. Once users see the real-world benefits of sharing their data across services, they’ll likely be less concerned about pie-in-the-sky nightmare scenarios that privacy advocates dream up.