Thursday, 06 September 2007 04:57

Facebook spills the beans on users

By
Facebook has begun making its users' information visible to non-members.

While the change only makes available a user's name and profile picture, the company has chosen to make this the default setting, so users must opt out if they do not want those details available to non-members. From a privacy perspective, members could reasonably have expected the new feature to operate on an opt-in basis.

The stated reason for the change is "so that people can see which of their friends are on Facebook more easily." Since anyone could join Facebook and get more information, it seems possible that the real reason is to draw more traffic to the site.

Such suspicions are fuelled by Facebook's plan to make these public listings accessible via search engines such as Google. While the amount of information revealed is small, users have provided Facebook with their details on the basis that they would only be available to other members.

There's nothing wrong with the idea of letting people choose to be found through search engines, but existing users may feel betrayed by Facebook's opt-out policy.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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