Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) is adding controls to help users manage what information is shared and who sees it on the world’s largest social-networking service.

New privacy shortcuts will be introduced in the coming weeks that allow users to tweak settings from the home page instead of having to click to other parts of the site to make adjustments, said Samuel Lessin, director of product at the Menlo Park, California-based company. Facebook is also making changes to the activity log, which lets users see what they have posted on the service and manage content.

“We’re basically helping people understand what’s out there, and to take the action that is appropriate,” Lessin said in an interview.

In a blog, Lessin spelled out the changes in greater detail.

“We believe that the better you understand who can see the things you share, the better your experience on Facebook can be,” he wrote.

“Today’s updates include Privacy Shortcuts, an easier-to-use Activity Log, and a new Request and Removal tool for managing multiple photos you’re tagged in. We’re also adding new in-product education that makes key concepts around controlling your sharing clearer, such as in-context reminders about how stuff you hide from timeline may still appear in news feed, search, and other places.

“We continue to strive toward three main goals: bringing controls in context where you share, helping you understand what appears where as you use Facebook, and providing tools to help you act on content you don’t like.”

Facebook is stepping up efforts to improve privacy settings as it comes under scrutiny from regulators and users about how it handles personal information. Last month, consumer groups including the Center for Digital Democracy criticized Facebook for changes to the company’s governing documents, such as ending votes for users on proposed privacy changes.

As part of the new changes, Facebook is trying to better inform users of where information might show up with notices, according to an e-mailed statement. That will include showing messages that explain how something hidden on Timeline — a profile that shows activities on the site — may still appear in News Feed, for example.

In addition, the activity log is getting revised navigation and management tools. It’s also providing a new way for requesting removal from multiple photos in which users have been associated with, or “tagged.” With the new tool, users can more easily ask friends to take down the pictures they don’t like, Facebook said.

Inside the Changes

The most visible, and perhaps most appreciated, change will be a new “privacy shortcuts” section that appears as a tiny lock on the right-hand side at the top of people’s news feeds. This feature offers a drop-down box where users can get answers to common questions such as “Who can see my stuff?” and “How do I stop someone from bothering me?”

Other updates will include a tool that enables individuals to review all the publicly available pictures identifying them on Facebook and suggestions on how to request that an embarrassing or unflattering photograph be removed. Facebook also plans to plant a privacy education page at the top of its users’ news feeds within the next month or so to help them better manage their online identities.

This marks the most extensive overhaul of Facebook’s privacy controls in about 15 months.

The new controls are an implicit acknowledgement by Facebook that the nearly 9-year-old service hasn’t always done the best job providing its users with easily accessible ways to corral the information and photos being posted on the website.

Facebook’s critics suspect the social network deliberately obfuscated its privacy controls as part of a scheme to expose as much personal information as possible to help the company attract more advertisers.

But that has never been the case, according to Lessin said. “Our number one priority is to not surprise users with our controls,” he said.

Facebook began paying more attention to its privacy controls and reputation as it matured into one of the world’s best-known companies. The scrutiny has intensified since Facebook became a publicly traded company seven months ago.

Digital Scarpbook

Some of the upcoming changes reflect Facebook’s ambition to establish its website as a digital scrapbook that will contain key moments spanning many decades of its users’ lives.

The new photo-reviewing tool is designed to make it easier for someone to flag old pictures that might not seem as cool as they once did. For instance, a Facebook user who didn’t mind being shown quaffing beer from a keg as an 18-year-old in college might not feel comfortable having that image publicly available as a 30-year-old looking for a job or starting a family.

Facebook rarely will remove a photo on its own, but one of its new features helps users ask a friend who posted the image to take it down.

Facebook is reshuffling its privacy controls the same week that it revoked its users’ right to vote on changes to the social network’s privacy policies. Lessin said the timing is purely coincidental.