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September 05, 2006

Facebook News–Feed

Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com

UPDATE THE SECOND: Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has posted a big open letter apologising for the Feed, announcing that Privacy controls have now been put in place for people to control exactly what they will allow to show up on the feed (if anything at all). Isn’t that nice? Ok, they should have thought it through in the first place, but it’s nice to see that moaning masses occasionally have some clout. Who knows? Today: Facebook! Tomorrow: Peace in the Middle East!

big-brotherFor those that use Facebook, what the hell is up with their new Newsfeed feature?? At first I was charmed by yet another new gimmick and the spruced up interface, but after this initial magpie-like fascination it’s quickly become clear that this is a case of “too much information”. WAY too much information. Sure, there’s the argument that you shouldn’t be using a community site like Facebook unless you want your information to be accessible to others; the problem with Newsfeed (and the equally annoying Minifeed) is that I can see it being abused far too quickly. Tiny details about people’s habits, as well as the messages they send to friends, are too easily available to anyone who’s gone through the procedure of adding them as a Facebook friend (hardly a rigorous screening procedure). Yes, people can ultimately get hold of this anyway, but not without expending a good deal more time and effort than this allows.

This smacks of Big Brother (the creepy Orwellian kind), and isn’t something that makes me particularly keen to carry on using this online “community”. Which is a shame really, because I was started to get quite fond of Facebook.

The Newsfeed has been rammed down our throats without allowing us any option for disabling it. What can we do about it? Complain! Join one of a growing number of anti-Newsfeed groups that are cropping up, and log a complaint. Of course, if you’re feeling malicious like I was a few hours ago, you can track down the brains behind this “great” new idea and administer a bit of rough justice, Facebook style: with a good old poke.

UPDATE:

Hey,

We understand that some people are unhappy or
concerned about the recent changes to Facebook.
Your feedback is welcome and appreciated because our
goal is to make a website that is in line with our
users’ expectations. As we consider future changes
and modifications, we will certainly keep everyone’s
opinions in mind. We think, however, that once you
become familiar with the new layout and features,
you will find these changes just as useful as past
improvements such as Photos, Groups, and the Wall.

We introduced News Feed and Mini-Feed because we
wanted to make it easier than ever before to see
interesting, relevant pieces of information from the
world around you. News Feed automatically generates
the most recent news stories about your friends so
that you have a resource available to guide your
movement throughout the site. Mini-Feed allows you
to quickly and easily see the latest developments in
the lives of people whose profiles you choose to
visit.

What is important to remember with all of these
features is that we are not allowing anyone to see
anything that they wouldn’t normally be allowed to
see. For example, if you join a secret group, any
friends that are not members will not receive a News
Feed story about this action. Similarly, when they
look at your Mini-Feed, they will not be able to see
a story about you joining the group. The settings
that are established on the My Privacy page and the
settings that apply to Photo albums, Notes, Groups,
Events, etc. dictate the stories that are displayed
in News Feed and Mini-Feed. Although there is no
option to completely turn off Mini-Feed, all users
have the option to hide individual stories. If you
select the ‘X’ button to the right of any of your
own stories, that content will no longer be visible
to anyone viewing your Mini-Feed. Facebook prides
itself in giving users complete control over the
information that they share with others. Let us
know if you have any questions about the privacy
settings that we offer.

Thanks for using Facebook!


Brendan

Customer Support Representative
Facebook

Sigh. So it’s a case of “we realise you have objections, but we’re not going to do anything about it. Deal with it.”


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