What the heck happened to Facebook?

A large proportion of users of the popular college/adult social networking site Facebook were surprised, shocked, and upset when Facebook launched a new feature that aggregates data about changes to user profiles into a “feed” page that shows, at a glance, what your friends are doing, new photos they’ve uploaded, changes in relationship status, added and removed group memberships, and publically posted messages on other users’ “walls”.

I don’t get it, not at all. I’ve never really understood or enjoyed using social networking sites, mostly because I find them fairly useless. When I logged into Facebook and saw all this interesting new information, I found myself coming back much more frequently than I ever had before. I don’t care to spend hours trolling through my friend’s profiles seeing what they’ve added and removed. Being presented with it on one page made Facebook actually useful, sorta like a blog, letting me keep track of what the people I knew were up to.

Wendy’s take on the outrage is a bit different:

When thinking about our information, we don’t just have two settings, “public” and “private.” Those who spill their lives into Facebook profiles still have expectations of privacy. We might be comfortable sharing information with some people, in some doses, expecting the typical human attention span to shield us from too much probing, but object when that same information is catalogued and read back. This is part of the horror of a wiretap or a secret police file, even if it discloses only innocent activities.

I guess she’s right, but I’m really confused about what users were using the site for and what they expected. Perhaps it is a bit surprising and upsetting to see how much information you have put into Facebook, but *you* were the one who put it there in the first place! Its like the kids who are shocked that potential employers check out their public profiles and see them admitting to engaging in illegal acts and then deny them jobs.

Facebook’s News Feed feature did not do anything that contradicted with the site’s already extensive set of privacy settings. Users had already chose to let their friends see things about them. Their friends are now able to see those things a bit more easily. It is a useful and innovative feature, and ironically, being able to see friends joining groups and posting messages made it far easier for masses of users to join in anti-News Feed protests utilizing Facebook itself. I doubt the people protesting understand the irony.