Spying On Your Friends Is Nice, But Getting Spied On… Not So Much

from the backlash dept

Yesterday’s announcement of new features at Facebook garnered a significant amount of attention, as the social-networking site announced new ways of keeping tabs on all your friends. At first blush, the features seemed useful, as they allow a user to view a feed of all their friends’ public activity, like changes to their profiles, comments they leave, and new friends that they make. But the announcement is already prompting some backlash, as some Facebook users resent having all of their activities broadcast to their friends. Clearly, there’s a difference between doing something public, and wanting everyone to know about it. What’s funny is that the announcement isn’t all that different from the poorly-received plan by Friendster to do the same thing (perhaps, the difference is that Friendster sends out emails of your friends’ activity, while Facebook distributes it in feeds, which are much sexier). Facebook says that it will address the concerns about the new product, though it’s mum on specifics. If they don’t do an adequate job, or, more generally, if concern about privacy on sites like this continue to grow, they will likely take a hit.

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Comments on “Spying On Your Friends Is Nice, But Getting Spied On… Not So Much”

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GT Kid says:

Re: You have a choice

The thing with choice is that it is different at different times on sites like these. For instance, my freshman year, when I joined the Facebook, it had very basic features. It had places for name and contact info, availability for ONE picutre, messaging, a basic profile, and friend searches were only done within your college unless otherwise specified. When I joined the site, it was a nice way to stay connected to campus, find contact informatioon for friends I made in classes, check a quick cell phone number for someone who isn’t listed in my cell phone, like someone in an assigned classgroup, and look to see hwo else on campus is in my classes before the first day so that I can meet them, or say ‘Hey Joe, looks like we’ve both got Blah this year! Awesome!”

The difference is that, I joined it then and this is now. With all these new “features” that have been added, I probably would not have joined the site. But I am already on the site. It’s got several useful tools. What we users who are speaking out want is not to get rid of our profile, rather, for it to go back to what it was. A nice way to meet new friends on campus and keep in touch with old friends from high school graduation. We like the site. What we don’t like is all this minute what-we-are-doing-now stuff. A status message is ok because it’s honestly a lot like an AIM away message. Having everyne see exactly what you’re doing, who you’re seeing, and who broke up with you? That stuff is a bit more than we are interested in seeing. If Joe breaks up with me, and I change my status, chances are that not many people will notice on my profile. It gives me a few days to prepare for questions and get over it. This is immediate. A lot of us “old Facebookers” don’t like the new direction.

Dan says:

Re: Re: You have a choice

Honestly, if the defining moment in a breakup is when you change your relationship status to single again on Facebook or MySpace, i think you need to recheck your priorities. Also, what questions do you need to prepare for? Come on, either you’re in high school and relationships are “oh so complicated” or the answer to the question is “things didn’t work out”. Don’t use social networking sites if you can’t be in the public eye.

M says:

Re: You have a choice

If you’re worried about your privacy then don’t join any social networking site. There is this false sense of annonimity that has swept accross the entire social networking fad.

Look at all these morons who pose with drugs and weapons, just to get arrested and positively IDed through their MySpace or Facebook account. They provide full admission statements through their blogs. Morons.

Anyone who joins these ridiculous sites better understand that everything they do or say will be seen by everyone they don’t want seeing it.

Adam Singer (user link) says:

Some of you guys are really jaded...

Much of social networking is kind of silly – but it does have a function.

Don’t discount it because you don’t use it. I’ve actually met some intelligent/thoughtful people, and teamed up with some like-minded artists and bloggers through MySpace and Facebook.

The new Facebook design actually doesn’t allow you to view anything you couldn’t view before, it’s just a little more in your face. I think more than anything else, people are afraid of change, and they use the Facebook alot.

It’s disconcerting because it’s new more than anything else, they’ll get used to it – or go somewhere else.

Anonymous Coward says:

Although online social networking seems silly or lame at first, it actually serves a purpose under stupid chain bulletins and losers desperately seeking attention. It serves as a public network where many of those you know can be contacted within seconds, while providing a social outlet for those who may be a little to shy to be forward with peers face-to-face. Now it’s those who seek to be “private” on these networks that cause me to really question their logic on being on one of these sites in the first place.

Blitze says:

Getting lives

First off… these idiots need to realize that if you are on public sites like that to share your life IT IS GOING TO BE KNOWN. People (excuse me teens) seem to think that going on a myspace and spending 2+ hours on their MySpace, Xanga, FaceBook profiles is a life and that they can put w/e they want and no one will know. It’s like yelling to a crowd on a mic and expecting no one to hear you…

Next ppl that use those sites need to have lives

Facebook User (user link) says:

Re: Getting lives

No, first off, you are engaging in name calling and generalization in discussing a topic it is fairly clear that you know little about.

Can you really say with a straight face that thousands of college students just “need to have lives”? The reality is that the “cool” kids, the “social” kids, the kids who go out and party every weekend are very often the ones who spend so much time on Facebook.

While it is often called “stalkernet”, many people do use Facebook for such benign things as recalling the name of the cool boy/girl from the party last weekend.

The major beef most people have with this new feed feature is not that the information is public but that the information is so readily accessible. No longer must a user make the effort to scan through their friend’s page to see what’s changed, every minute edit is available to see on the front page! A more appropriate version of your analogy is that the Facebook is like a giant public bulletin board you must peruse (not unlike something you’d see on a college campus). The feed feature is like someone hunted for every flyer you put up and *then* read them aloud through a megaphone.

In this age of privacy problems, Facebook is actually quite good at letting the user pick just how public their information will be. What’s missing from the feed feature is the ability to just turn it off. Some people might not care about broadcasting their every move on Facebook, others do.

JC says:

Re: Re: Getting lives

This is precisely the problem. Everyone who joins an online social network is (or should be) aware that they are sacrificing some of their privacy. The beef most people have with the new features is not so much the idea behind the concept, its the lack of options that come along with it. I’m sure some people who have a close, tight network of friends don’t mind the feeds. However, those who are a little looser with who the choose to befriend have a reason to be mad about the change. Not only did it come as a total surprise and with the creators not asking for any input from users, but frankly its just a wee bit creepy. I don’t care what my friends see and know about me. What I care about is what the friends of my friends are seeing, and their friends and the people I have never seen or heard of in my life. Mind you, I understand these people are just a few clicks away from the info as it is. It just seems unnecessary and over the top to have my every move being broadsted on the homepages of everyone in my network. “Network” is not limited to just friends, but people in groups, in the same geographical area as you and throughout the school you belong to. You can easily have less than 100 “friends” and end up with a network that stretches over 5000 people.

Again, let me say my beef is that there is no way to turn this option off. I know people can find out all this stuff about me whenever they want and I really don’t care about that. If someone wants to exert that much energy to stalk me then that is fine. I don’t have any incriminating info or identity theft bait posted on my damn facebook account. Who gives a crap?!? All I’m saying is lets not invite people to stalk or create stalkers by showing them all this information they probably wouldn’t seek out or care to know about if it wasn’t on their freaking home page!

Paul says:

friend addicts!

I can understand not wanting everything to be publicly announced, but I think the main problem stems from friend harvesters. You know, the type that goes and adds everyone and their grandmother to their friendlist just so they can say they have 698 friends on facebook, the people who think their friend count is their score at life.

These people have friend lists full of people who they have prolly never even talked to, and they don’t want THOSE people to know everything about them.

Why would they post information on facebook if they didn’t want their real friends to read about it.

Tomalak Geret'kal (user link) says:

But it is different

The new Facebook design actually doesn’t allow you to view anything you couldn’t view before, it’s just a little more in your face. I think more than anything else, people are afraid of change, and they use the Facebook alot.

It’s disconcerting because it’s new more than anything else, they’ll get used to it – or go somewhere else.

In the information age it should be obvious to all of us that it’s not just WHAT data you publish, it’s HOW you publish it.

Whereas before, things like photo additions and status changes could be tracked by a friend with a piece of paper, they weren’t announced.

Now everyone’s every move is listed in a chronological fashion, and this is scary. Whether you’re the sort of person who accepts change easily, or not.

MCF (user link) says:

Kind of creepy

Tomalak makes a good point… although the privacy of the data remains the same, it’s the fact that the content is pushed to users that has some people upset. The feature is very useful but is definitely somewhat creepy.

And for the person who said that these kids need to “get a life,” I feel like that’s the kettle calling the pot black. Online social networks don’t consume people’s lives and certainly don’t constitute the majority of most students’ social interactions. In fact, these networks, Facebook most notably, supplement offline interactions and allow students to maintain relationships with people they wouldn’t otherwise see on a regular basis.

Facebook (L)user says:

I Suppose I Had Better Add My Nickel To All This

It occurs to me, if “facebook” was some sort of game, where you had to collect and keep track of people’s information and such, this feature would be invaluable. But, it isn’t a game, it is a fancy online-rolodex. So this feature seems just a tad but oo powerful. It is not that it isn’t “good,” it is mostly that it just isn’t needed at all.

Furthermore, I like the argument that all the information is stuff that you could get otherwise, but for the most part, the newsfeeds I get don’t even invovle me directly. One of my friends befriended someone I hadn’t even heard of… Great, I know about it, but, big-whoop. Also, even though this IS all information you could find yourself, finding that information used to be rather difficult. Now they have gone and put everything just right there, it’s a little much.

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