Facebook fuss has an easy solution

You have to feel sorry for the folks at Facebook. Despite the fact that they have made no changes to privacy settings, the site’s users are offended, feeling as though their privacy has been invaded. This is despite the fact that Facebook’s new features don’t reveal any data that wasn’t already out in the open in the first place.

So what’s the gripe? Log in to the home page and you see a big list of pretty mundane data about what your friends have done. It’s not very interesting. “X is at home”, “Y removed walking from his interests”, things like that. Hardly earth-shattering stuff — and it’s all stuff that your friends would have seen anyway, just in a different place.

The ‘mini-feeds’ on each user’s profile have caused the greatest upset though. My mini-feed is pretty boring: there are only two entries so far (1. I’m at home, 2. I’ve added my religious views (another new feature) to my profile). But that’s mostly because I don’t use Facebook so much.

Look at somebody else’s mini-feed, and you’ll get a longer list, but it’s mostly things like “X wrote on Y‘s wall” over and over again. And, vitally, this is all information that your friends would have seen anyway. So essentially we have all the same stuff, just put in a different place. And have you seen those little crosses next to each entry in your mini-feed? You can delete every single thing if you want anyway.

All this stuff about making Facebook “stalker-esque” is a bit overblown. For starters, only your friends can see all of this information about you. The same people can see the same information as they could before, just in a different place. And if you’re adding potential stalkers as friends on Facebook, then that’s your own sorry fault for treating the friends counter like a gameshow scoreboard.

Also, if you’re complaining about the new layout being too cluttered, did you not notice that you can actually now toggle everything so that it magically disappears? The little arrow next to every heading?

So the fuss is all a bit confusing for me. I guess students always feel as though they have to have something to rebel against. Makes them feel important.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Facebook’s new features. They allow you to keep tabs on your friends without having to traipse through their profile page all the time. And if you don’t want somebody to take an interest, why did you add them as a ‘friend’?

Article via Digg.

Update: Groups for people who are fed up with the complaints: Quit bitching about the Facebook feed! Its easy to fix!; stfu about new facebook features (via).


  1. I love the new display. The reason facebook exists is for internet stalking (possibly also the best use for Google, too) and now they’ve made it even easier. As a professional internet stalker I think it’s brilliant, if sometimes a little tedious – “someone you vaguely know through a tutorial has added someone you don’t know to their friends” – well, hurrah for them!

    I hope it’s not changed, because I think the new main page perfectly encapsulates what a social site is about – keeping in contact with your, well, contacts!

  2. […] This is kind of related to my Facebook post below. Google results for Confidential “do not distribute”. Hint: If you want something to be kept private, don’t put it on the internet. And especially don’t flag up confidential information so obviously! (Via.) […]

  3. I’m not particularly bothered by the new Facebook features, but your protestations are just plain wrong. Individual pieces of data brought together often results in a “greater than the sum of its parts” effect.

    To choose a quick example, I might know that you have a dog. I might also know that you are looking for a vet. If I know both these things, then I also know that your dog is probably ill.

    To go for something more Facebook oriented, I might have just broken up with my girlfriend. I might also have just posted a kinda flirty message on someone else’s message board soon after. If you know both these things, you might reasonably infer that I fancy this other person, or even that I broke up with my gf to pursue this other person.

    Bringing data together creates new data. Sure it was possible to do this data-merging by hand, but that’s done on an individual basis, rather than a broadcast basis. Additionally, these data links might have got lost in the overall torrent of other data in the system. Example: there’s a difference between me meeting a friend in a park, for example, where other people *might* see me, and the details of that meeting being sent via email to all of my friends.

    It’s this new data, that was previously private (or at least relatively private) that is what is so objectionable. Bringing the data together with the news feed is an active act of creating the data and so is an active act of privacy invasion.

  4. As if anything somebody anybody writes on Facebook is a state secret! If it is, they shouldn’t be writing it on Facebook. If people think they had privacy on Facebook they are simply wrong. As I said before, the same data is available to the same people. If you post a flirty message on Facebook you are really asking for it to be seen. If you want something to be private your best bet is to use email.

    Facebook shouldn’t have expected that revolt. It is, after all, designed to be a social network — yet its users have shown themselves to be massively anti-social by asking for privacy from their so-called “friends”!

  5. See, I knew nothing about it until it got mentioned in the LJ news post, and to read that, you’d think it was teh eveel.

    Then again, apparently the new tracking system on LJ, which is completely innocuous and dead useful for chatty journals, is a gross abuse that encourages stalking, according to some deluded reactions. One of them thinks it’s akin to Orwell FFS.

    Can’t use facebook, ergo can’t compare, but, well, sounds daft t’me, if you don’t want people to know stuff about you online, don’t do it with an account attached to your namem seems easy enough to me.

  6. Can’t use facebook, ergo can’t compare, but, well, sounds daft t’me, if you don’t want people to know stuff about you online, don’t do it with an account attached to your namem seems easy enough to me.

    While that is good advice, Mat, that’s not even really the problem here. It’s not as if this is information that is publicly available to any old person. You can choose to have your Facebook profile visible to friends only. Those settings did not change when mini-feed and news feed were introduced.

    To me, this is the most exasperating thing about this whole hoo-ha. If you were worried about private information getting into the wrong hands, why on earth would you add said wrong hands to your friends list?!

  7. […] But the new features were massively unpopular, with many users howling that their privacy was being invaded and that the new features were too “stalker-esque”. But the privacy settings hadn’t changed — all of the information could be hidden from everybody but your friends if you wished. What kind of person adds stalkers to their friends list? […]