The Great Facebook Revolt of 2006

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It didn't take long for Time magazine and USA Today to get the scoop on The Facebook.com's controversial new tools, did it? I'll let Time update everyone on the crisis.

On Tuesday morning the popular social networking site unrolled a new feature dubbed the "News Feed" that allows users to track their friends' Facebook movements by the minute. For many of Facebook's 8-million plus student users, it was too much. Within 24 hours, hundreds of thousands of students nationwide organized themselves to protest the new feature. Ironically, they're using Facebook to do it.

The feature in question appears on the user's home page and looks like a glitzy laundry list. It chronicles every action a user's friends have recently taken on Facebook. These include the mundane: Sally befriended Joan, the boring: Tim now likes The Daily Show, and the juicy: John and Beth broke up. And in case it matters, each action is time-stamped to the minute.

I've been invited (yes, I'm on Facebook) to multiple pro-and-anti-news feed groups. But I'm passing on the anti-groups and not giving a damn about the "intrusiveness" of the news feed. It's not really a "stalking" service, as you only see updates from people who've digitally affirmed your friendship. If it was a stalking service, it wouldn't even be a good one, as the updates are all about activity in the digital world—if you want to wait in the shadows for Cute Girl X, it hardly helps to know she joined the group "Stephen Colbert is the Best NU Alumnus Ever."

Even if this particular revolt isn't that important, it's pretty heartening that Gen Y (or "Gen Facebook," if you can stand it) can rise to anger so quickly over privacy issues. The makers of YoungPeopleForNSAWiretaps.org might want to hold off on their launch date.

NEXT: Attn, DC Reasonoids: Happy Hour, Next Wed., 9/13

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  1. Students join lots of groups to see where they fit in. They might not want the whole world, especially potential employers, to know they’ve joined a group with a bad reputation at home until they are sure it’s the group for them. I can see their objection to the news feed. The simplest solution: swith to another social networking site.

  2. I think it’s annoying, but I used it to my advantage: I just joined every Libertarian Campaign Issue I could in the hopes that someone might click on it and go “hmmm….I never thought of that.”

    The anti-feed group mentioned in the TIME article has undoubtedly hit 600,000 members by now.


  3. Even if this particular revolt isn’t that important, it’s pretty heartening that Gen Y (or “Gen Facebook,” if you can stand it) can rise to anger so quickly over privacy issues.

    As a member of Facebook and “Gen Facebook”, I find this new feature to be far too intrusive. Granted, Facebook in it of itself is somewhat intrusive on its own by having people put up all their information (not private information, of course), but making it that much easier for people to track the online goings-on of people is just too much. And yes, it is heartening that young people are upset that their privacy has been compromised.

  4. I love facebook, it is a real wonder. I hate the new feature; its not so much that it is intrusive as that it is, well, dumb and we were opted into it.

  5. Gen Y (or whatever) still believes they can have privacy in the Myspace and Facebook era?

    That’s so cute. I just want to pat their little heads.

  6. Drew,

    Pardon me for not getting it. What’s wrong with just taking everyone off your friends list?

    Now if the Gen-Whatevers just could get as riled up about real privacy intrusions that they can’t opt out of. Such as AG Gonzales’s proposal to have access even months later to everything everyone does on the whole Net. It’s in the works on that Hill of True Enlightenment in Wash DC.

    But I forget, that one is FOR THE CHILDREN.
    http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/speeches/2006/ag_speech_0604202.html

    beginning at: “The investigation and prosecution”

  7. The simple solution to all of this is just to make it “opt in” rather than have every default to having their information broadcast.

    I’m sure there are plenty of people who would like to have their friends updated, but want some control over it.

  8. The simple solution to all of this is just to make it “opt in” rather than have every default to having their information broadcast

    I’ll second that….

    and they could even make it customizable so that you can pick and choose which friends you want seeing your updates and which you don’t.

  9. It’s not a privacy issue. Sophomore girls majoring in political science think it is because they’re fucking dumb. Most of us just really hate the news feed because its annoying. Behold the power of the customer.

  10. I dislike the news feed too, but it’s not like it’s disclosing private information. It’s highlighting recent actions, but you could, with only a little effort, click on a friend’s page to see what groups they belong to anyway. It’s mostly annoying, and should be opt-in.

  11. Is it just me, or is “Gen Facebook” totally preoccupied and obsessed with their own vanity?

    Get over yourselves.

    And anyone who frequents MySpace or Facebook (free sites) has no reason to be bitching about privacy invasion. ed is right.

  12. smacky, no it’s not just you (and me).
    But you know, the reason we don’t get it is … we’re too old! Well, I am at least ;).

  13. martin,

    I’m not old, but I’ve been out of highschool for more than a few years, and unlike other people my age, I’m capable of acting that way, too. 🙂

  14. As I understand it (and I don’t use Facebook), the information was already available. It doesn’t tell you anything you couldn’t have already figured out on your own.

    If Andy and Beth were friends, Andy could always look at what groups Beth was a member of. And if he looked last night, and she wasn’t in some group, and he looked again today and she was, Andy would know that she joined sometime in the interval. The “feed” just automates the process of gathering and publishing that information to you.

    If Beth doesn’t want Andy to know what groups she’s in, she can hide that information. But that isn’t new. The default is permissive, let your friends see all your groups. That’s the same now as it was before too.

    The feed has resulted in so much negative reaction from users (and negative press) that I’d be shocked if Facebook didn’t change it somehow. Either by just shutting off the feed or by making this information more private by default.

    larry

  15. or “Gen Facebook,” if you can stand it

    No. No we can’t.

    I don’t get the problem. If you don’t want people to see what you’ve done, click the little ‘x’ beside it, and it goes away. Problem solved, and without bitching, no less.

  16. I signed onto facebook Tuesday, saw what they had done, joined some anti-news feed groups, thought about it for a few days, and then deleted my profile. I felt a little strange using Facebook to protest Facebook. Online “friendship” with someone over facebook does not mean I want to know the instant they decide that “nip/tuck” is no longer one of their favorite TV shows or that they have left the group “jon stewart for president”.

  17. I’m currently a Junior in College. Reccently at our school, which I will not name, they have been policing facebook worse than the Chinaese Govt.!

    Picture ‘Albums’ and ‘taggings’ were the worst things to ever come to facebook. A fraternity that had been established some 60 something years, had a big party, ‘street signs’ in the back ground…etc. No longer exists! 60 years worth of Alumni and members now have a chapter because of facebook.

    Other cases have came up where a student was 20years old, had a picture drinking a beer, and it was used as proof for MIP!(minor in possesion)
    -I stand surprised anyone over 21 in the pictures didn’t get a ‘contributing charge!’

    Just get off of it, it’s free you don’t have any money invested in it, and it does more harm than good!

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