Facebook creepifies?

It seems that Facebook has a new face, which includes a personal news feed feature, and the kids aren’t all right. The aggregation of information seems to creep them out.

So what’s in my feed this morning? (Names abbreviated a bit.)

* 47 new photos of FF and friends called “Fall semester in a nutshell” (8:57am)
* TM and GC are now friends. (8:37am)
* JR joined the group “I hate facebook’s new mini-feed feature” (7:40am)
* CW is at the bar. (7:40am)
* CW joined the group “I liked facebook the way it was” (7:00am)
* EF, Ph.D. is kinda creeped out facebook is keeping a record of everything he does. (6:03am)
* MLS joined the group Chase+1. (5:23am)
* MLS is on Campus (4:29am)
* RLA and CH joined the group “I miss the OLD facebook.” (4:09am)
* JM joined the Poughkeepsie, NY network.

You get the idea. Several other new groups and thoughts show up on my feed from yesterday, including

* DF is thinking facebook is out of control.
* The NEW Facebook SUCKKKKKS – Change it BACKKKKK.
* FF is totally upset about how crazy stalkerish facebook just got.
* I just wiped my ass and didn’t wash my hands, and facebook told everyone.

So, the consensus among the students in my network seems to be that aggregating Facebook data is creepy. This isn’t a surprise to me, but I still just don’t get it. Facebook users seem to think that their profiles are somehow not being published to the world. While I haven’t scraped Facebook, I did quietly scrape Orkut for my own use. I imagine human subjects approval for grabbing that data for publishable research would be pretty impossible, but that doesn’t stop people (like me) from grabbing the information and combining it with other gathered info. I suspect that there is a growing database of profiles out there in private hands, fed by people (like me) who provide fairly extreme transparency in their daily lives.

But students expect that no one will see their MySpace profiles or Facebook pages except for people they already know, and don’t seem to think about how this data can be combined with other sources of data to create pretty complete profiles. This is counter intuitive, and really short-sighted. I wonder if you have to be surprised by these uses a few times before you really get that anything on the web (and increasingly, anywhere) is no longer private.

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  1. Mike
    Posted 9/6/2006 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    An inherently tech-savvy generation that does “not get” the idea that Facebook and MySpace have nothing to do with privacy is the same one that thinks copying CDs and DVDs from a friend isn’t stealing or that “Girls Gone WIld” won’t use that video clip because you think you’re too fat. Obviously, we have a lot more teaching to be done in the early grades.

    My suggested course title, “Ethics in the Real World, or How To Keep Yourself From Doing Really Stupid Things”. Required class for all kindergartners, who tend to learn things quickly — like stealing is bad or that everyone plays by the rules except cheaters.

  2. Posted 9/6/2006 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I just wrote up a little script last night that does just that: transforms the News Feed to RSS.

    PHP and all the source is there: http://blog.nemik.net/2006/09/06/facebook-news-feed-rss/

  3. Posted 9/6/2006 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Agreed, I find it amusing the students are now just realizing their privacy is at stake when it has been the entire time. Over the next few years you’re going to see some interesting press covering recruiting practices at colleges and how Facebook facilitates a much more thourough window into a candidates personality. I wrote some more about it at http://www.bradgessler.com/2006/09/06/what-you-dont-know-about-facebook/

  4. Posted 9/6/2006 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    For non-facebook users who want to find discussion of this new feature (and can’t look at the discussion in the facebook groups) there is activity at the Facebook discussion room http://www.talkface.com

  5. Posted 9/6/2006 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    This is less about users not realizing that their personal information is public in the first place, and more about how changing the norms of flow of that information disrupts the “contextual integrity” within the Facebook community.

    Yes, they knew that all that information was out there, but the existence of that information takes new meaning (and new potency) now that the delivery method has been refined in such a way that each and every change is automatically highlighted and sent to others.

    One question: I know users can customize what information they make public/private – but can they determine which of the public information will be published in the RSS feed?

  6. Posted 9/6/2006 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Here is a live counter of the number of people who have joined the “Students against Facebook News Feed” group on Facebook….. 300,000 and climbing


  7. Posted 9/7/2006 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    I am new to Facebook and still learning its culture. I hope one day that I’ll be using it to connect with students in an academic library. Meantime, I am learning its ropes, and I do find it a bit creepy to advertise to my entire network whenever a photo is uploaded or I updated a profile section, especially since I am new and that is happening a lot. Turns out you can customize your feed by clicking the “x” over to the right of each update you don’t want in the feed.

  8. Posted 9/7/2006 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    damn, alex. I fought looking at FB since forever, but I had to go get an account now. anything that can get students to freak out about personal information online is ok by me!

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