Facebook U-turn on privacy: promises to ask users first

Facebook is to perform a U-turn on privacy, promising to make future changes to user accounts opt-in after an investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Previously, the social network has come under attack for sneaking in changes to users' privacy settings by stealth, such as the introduction of automatic face recognition - a move that has led to the threat of legal action from a German data protection regulator.

The WSJ report also suggests the site has agreed to undergo privacy audits by an independent organisation over the next 20 years.

Facebook has so far failed to comment on the story.

Privacy campaigners are still far from convinced, however, that Facebook's change of heart will mean greater protection for its 800 million users.

London-based group Privacy International told the BBC: "Faced with reams of small print, most users are likely to automatically agree to policy changes, with each change bringing us one step closer to Zuckerberg's vision of a privacy-free future,"

CEO and founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg earlier this week claimed that the social networking site was more privacy-conscious that rivals such as Google, Microsoft or Yahoo.

"They're collecting this huge amount of information about who you are. But you never know that," Zuckerberg told US TV's Charlie Rose show.