Facebook changes met with passive ire, but underlying changes strip away privacy
Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 00:09
Chaos erupted online last Wednesday when Facebook rolled out a set of updates.
At least, that's what many social network users would have you believe. True, Facebook news feeds exploded with questions, complaints and jokes and #NewFacebook was a trending topic on Twitter.
But by Friday, relatively few people seemed to still care.
So what is the big deal and should we still care? The short answer — yes. Here's why:
With the new upgrades, Facebook has made passively controlling your privacy level almost impossible. Users can subscribe to your updates even if they are not your friends.
Now that users have the ability to subscribe to each other, unfriending someone does little to stop the flow of information to unwanted eyes. Now, if you want to keep someone from viewing your updates you must block them, which seems a bit harsh in most circumstances.
Then there is the ticker. It's a real-time status update of what your friends are doing. It's similar in nature to a Twitter timeline, except your information does not show on your own ticker.
It's redundant to your news feed and frankly annoying. Every comment you make through Facebook on a public page goes right to the ticker of all of your friends.
I use Google Chrome and it has an application to disable the ticker, so mine is gone. Unfortunately, this won't stop my comments and activities from being displayed on the tickers of my friends. It will only keep me from seeing theirs.
There were also changes to the News Feed/Top Stories area of the Facebook home page. These were more noticeable visibly than operationally. Users who are members of group pages have been dealing with the news feed moving "top story" items to the top of the screen for months.
This is not really anything new, rather it is an expansion of a previous upgrade. The only real difference is the little blue corner marker that denotes a top story. The more time you spend on Facebook, the more likely it is that your recent stories will appear on top.
One of the best features introduced in the upgrade was a change to the way photos are viewed in the news feed. They are larger, more prominent, and when multiple photos are added they are tiered in an eye-catching layout.
Do you have a friend who uses a lot of game apps? Are you tired of having to block new games every time they begin a new one? Is there someone on your friend list who frequently spams your news feed with You Tube videos but has great status updates?
You now have the option, under the subscribe button, to pick and choose what you do and don't want to see from each individual on your friend list. This is a great function, but obviously tedious if you are one of those people with a friend list of several hundred people.
There are more changes coming to Facebook this Friday. However, being charged to use Facebook is not one of the changes. That is only a hoax.
I've had the opportunity to play with a preview version of the new "Timeline," which is replacing the profile page. Timeline sorts all of your activity by year and month from now all of the way back to when you first signed up with the social networking site.
Users can choose a cover photo as well as pick and choose what information to post or discard from their timeline.
Friends, photos, likes and links are compartmentalized behind easy-to-use icons as well as a section designated "maps" where a history of check-ins are available for viewing. Once you get used to the novelty of it, Timeline is not much more than a digital scrapbook of your life as told by Facebook.
It's easy to slip into a comfort zone when we use social networking sites such as Facebook. The abundance of security controls and options can lull us into a false sense of privacy and security.
The recent upgrades to Facebook are designed to allow users to share their information more easily, but they go a step further in allowing anyone who has not been actively blocked to now see information that was previously reserved for approved friends, friends of friends or networks.
Unless you make the effort to customize your posts, much of your information can be viewed by anyone you have not blocked.
It's a reminder that anything and everything we post on the web is public, no matter how much we try to hide behind privacy and security controls.
Jenny is a junior majoring in environmental engineering. She loves the Boston Red Sox, riding roller coasters, writing poetry and watching science fiction programs.