Fearmongering Facebook’s News Feed…


I love Facebook’s News Feed. It’s convenient.

So forgive me if I call you silly for fearing Facebook’s so-called “invasion of privacy“. This fearmongering business is a distortion of the truth, that is in fact as Michael Arrington mentioned, “no new information is being made available about users”. So where does all the information come from?

If you have a Facebook account, logging in will present you a new page where you’ll get to see a news flow of what everyone in your network is doing. In one glance, you’ll see and respond to friends if needed, sort of like an email inbox. This saves you clicking on everyone’s profile just to see what each person’s up to.

Now pause and think for a moment. What does this remind you of?
Blogs and RSS newsreaders. Your friend’s Facebook profiles are actually like blogs, while Facebook’s News Feed would be your RSS newsreader.

But what if I don’t want my Facebook profile to be read like a blog?
It’s time for you to wake up! As Brad Gessler said, it is amusing that the students are now just realizing their privacy is at stake when it has been the entire time. Realize that the minute you invested time in building your Facebook profile and network, you’re already engaging the public in a limited sense. What you might not be aware of is that anyone can search for your profile by default. Every social network has different rules about privacy, and as for Facebook, it was always open to anyone with a .edu email account. Still, take solace in the fact that the News Feed only shows updates within a user’s network, not the entire Facebook population (that would be overbearing).

It’s a Feature, not a Bug.
Note that even without the News Feed feature, it’s not like I couldn’t see what you’re doing. This News Feed just makes it easier for me to know what you’re doing, throw in a comment if appropriate and start conversations where they might not have existed. Yes, this is disruptive since it connects all of us at another level, so while it is shocking to the uninitiated (please read the Privacy FAQ), it’s really for the better since it establishes a more connected social network.

No, News Feed isn’t about stalking.
Since the News Feed shows what everyone is doing, you can’t possibly stalk everyone on your network (that really sounds tragic!). A stalker would be more appropriately define as who someone camps on your Facebook profile 24/7 just to see what you are doing (which is entirely possible).

Why did you join this social network in the first place?
You joined because you probably had friends who did and you wanted to keep in touch. For that very sole purpose as your network grew, didn’t you find it harder to keep track of what your friends were doing? You probably missed out on something big, like someone’s birthday or even a wedding. Frankly speaking, Facebook was so stagnant without this singular godsent feature. It’s what binds us together and once we get the hang of it, you wouldn’t want to live without it.

Still fear the exposure?
One word: Covergence. What Facebook has done is to simply put all the pieces of you in one place, sorta like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. An extreme worse case scenario was when AOL released search results of their users… we remember how netizens could piece together pieces to reveal pretty scary people, including someone who was clearly researching how to kill his wife. As such, the rules of privacy apply everywhere on the Internet, including Facebook. If you think it’s something detrimental to your future, DO NOT PUBLISH IT. Facebook or not, don’t assume there’s a virtual rock you could hide your dirty linens under. Accept the way the Internet truly works and learn to be tactful when sharing personal information online.

Get the facts right.
Understand what you’re dealing with rather than to blindly follow the masses and to sign anti-newsfeed petitions because your friends did. Petitions are cool but they can be really retarded, like this one earlier this year also against an earlier Facebook feature. Finally, if you ever have something to hide, simply hit the X on your mini-feed as shown in my screenshot (sucks, apparently it doesn’t work).

Update 1: Seeing how Facebook users prefer to downplay their social connections, it’s ironic how professional social network, LinkedIn, makes your relationship with others explicit for the purpose of building your reputation. I guess different demographics = different objectives (e.g. getting wasted vs. getting a job).

Update 2: On a related note, if you fear the loss of privacy and refuse to blog because of that, you’re missing the point. While it’s relatively easy to pick up your online trail through search engines like Google (e.g. searching nicknames in forums, news reports), I always believe that running your own blog or online presence lets you manage your online identity, rather than to be at the whim and fancy of incriminating search results pointing back to you. Some might say it’s a lot of work, but that’s contradictory since valuing your privacy is part of managing your reputation. Doing so takes the same amount of time it does for you to maintain your statue in real life.

Update 3: Nemik rawks. Why? Because he just wrote a script last night that transforms the Facebook News Feed into RSS. Grab the source, customize it then stay tuned to your Facebook network via RSS newsreader!

28 thoughts on “Fearmongering Facebook’s News Feed…

  1. Hmm. I am new to Facebook and am just learning its culture. And while I do see how this particular service is something not offered by other social networks, I still find it a bit creepy. It logs your every move and posts it as an update. Who cares if I updated my movies profile? If someone is interested in my movies, won’t they go there and look?

    Nonetheless, I may not mind sharing with my network my feelings about the feed, which I did yesterday. A colleague came on and explained that you can remove anything you want from the feed by clicking on that “x” to its right. So, I kept some things and deleted others. Like I said, still learning this culture and maybe it’s better for me as a newbie to customize that feed.

  2. That’s fine that you like the news feed. It’s fine that the majority of people on facebook hate it. It’s not fine that those who find a problem with it can’t turn it off entirely. It’s not fine that the “Lords of Facebook” aren’t listening to more than half a million people clammoring for, if not a complete removal, at least be able to disable it for themselves with a single click, rather than several. If you haven’t noticed, the official petition has more than twice the number of the so-called “Largest Group on Facebook”. There are over 350 anti news feed groups and fewer than 10 groups in favor of it. I don’t want to see who’s friends with whom down to the minute. I don’t really give a shit. All I want is to be able to, with ONE click of my mouse, is to be able to obliterate my news feed and my mini feed. If you want to keep it, then keep it. Let the stalkers stalk you and stop patronizing people who sign the petitions to get rid of the news feed. It’s not fearmongering, you insipid bitch, it’s people who feel strongly against something coming together in order to regain the facebook that we’ve all come to know and love.

  3. I think its nice that you like the new facebook… but if you check out the Official Petition to Facebook Against the News Feed… you will c that ALOT of ppl dissagree with you… infact… the group is growing so fast that by the end of 2marrow it will probably be larger than the “Largest Group On Facebook Ever”… therefor you can think what you want… but soon… im pretty sure the news feed will be removed either way 😀

  4. Welcome to the world where the sucker get suckered in. Hey, if you are addicted to Facebook, I understand. I am addicted to coffee myself.

  5. Natelie: Point taken. I agree that it would be better for users to opt-out in one-click rather than to cross-out every update they make. It’s a usability issue which I bet the Facebook admins would address soon.

    Mr Board: Size doesn’t matter. Even if everyone else were to say “jump off a building”, it doesn’t mean I should follow. This “flocking” behavior shows how misinformed students are, that their dependency on the masses for validity needs to be in check. It’s disappointing that there’s a lack of information literacy with regards to privacy. It seems the half a million people are still living the illusion of secrecy, when there was none to begin with.

    nuMetal: Obviously coffee isn’t working for you… 😛

  6. First of all, I would like to respond to a previous comment and say that the 607,765 users in the “Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook)” is hardly twice as much as the 845,279 members of “The Largest Facebook Group Ever.”

    Personally, I like the changes. It allows me to keep up with my friends with a quick glance. This way, I also see knew groups, events, and campaign issues that I wouldn’t have other seen. It’s much more convenient then clicking on all of my friends profiles and reading through their groups, events, and issues. Also, it allows me to see status updates of my friends. Facebook is now convenient, making it easier for people to keep in touch with or stay updated on their friends without taking hours.

    On the other hand, I can understand the calls for an easy disabling option. Just like Facebook enables you to say a friend can only see your “limited profile,” you should be able to take yourself out of the news feed. But, for those looking for a way to keep yourself out of newsfeeds, Facebook does have the “limited profile” option, under My Privacy, which would hide information you don’t want seen. If the worry is that people from your networks that aren’t your friends can see your actions on your mini-feed, then close your profile to friends only (also under My Privacy).

    Also, in reference to “Students against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook)”, Facebook is not a government. It is a business. A petition can in no way bind Facebook to make a change. And joining and creating hundreds of groups against the new Facebook in no way helps your cause. In fact, it probably hurts it. See the big ad to the right of the group info? Everytime someone goes to that group, posts to the group, or joins the group Facebook gets paid. As far as I can tell, this “Facelift” has increased activity on Facebook, which increases the amount Facebook profits.

    I think your quote of Brad Gessler, “it is amusing that the students are now just realizing their privacy is at stake when it has been the entire time.” says it best. The real issue is the fact that people are now figuring out that other people can see things about them. So, not only is this new feature convenient but it’s also good in the sense that it makes people aware of what they’re sharing.

    My advice to those who are upset about the new feature: stop using Facebook and delete your account or adjust your privacy settings and don’t be friends with people who you don’t want to know about you. However, it’s irresponsible to say that the “Facelift” invades your privacy or contributes to stalking. It doesn’t. As this blog and so many other people have said, nothing new is revealed.

  7. Yes. As a rule of tUmb, don’t blog anything you wouldn’t be comfortable being read in public or in a courtroom.

  8. nuMetal: You mean publish. Not everyone blogs, which is one form of publishing. I’m nitpicking of course. People have been saying “Xerox” in place of photocopying, and “Googling” in place of searching.

    Sacrelicious: Does it smell nice? Maybe like pumpkin pie in the morning?

  9. hmm… you say the feeds are visable to people only in each others’ networks but I just noticed a familiar face up there in the photo adding reference books to her faves. She’e boring. hrmph. Alex used initials and no pics.

  10. “Finally, if you ever have something to hide, simply hit the X on your mini-feed as shown in my screenshot.”

    Deleting a piece of information from your mini-feed in no way affects what appears in other peoples “news-feed”.

    Follow your own advice and “Get the facts right.
    Understand what you’re dealing with…”

  11. Note that this information has been superceded since Facebook added new privacy controls. As of the inception of this post, Facebook’s Privacy FAQ stated that “…every user has the option to hide a Mini-Feed story. If they hide it on their own profile, it will also be invisible to any other person looking at their Mini-Feed.” The News Feed aggregates everyone’s mini-feeds (and more), thus that was the popular suggestion for removing updates you don’t want others to see.

  12. This is based solely on testing, and I just tested this yet again to be sure, removing something from your mini-feed does not remove it from others news feed. Try it for yourself, post something, delete it from your mini-feed, have a friend log on and viola, there it is on their news-feed.

  13. That sucks. Thanks and I’ll make sure to make it known that this tip doesn’t work. Thought my point was that privacy was never there to begin with, from a user experience perspective, I agree that users should be given more choice in the matter.

  14. Kevin, why is that pic up there at the top of this post along with the person’s name? She surely doesn’t mind people in her network looking in, as you point out, but this is your blog. I just don’t get it.

  15. I hate the new feeds when u soon sign in and see what other peope are doing, no privacy what s ever, thats needs to change, take it off or give us a option to see if we really want it there or now, goodness if we dot want somthing there put a option so we ca choose instead of forcing us to have it here

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