itself as “a social utility that helps you...to learn more about the people who work, live, or study around you”, but there are concerns that News Feeds were going beyond the purpose of learning, and bordering on stalking:Facebook has privacy settings in place so that users can control their information, but only toan extent. I have my privacy settings as ‘friends only’ so that only people in my friends listcan see my profile and posts – but that includes 280 people from my jobs, university, school,family and social groups, so I can’t hide anything. Other privacy options include ‘friends of friends’, ‘networks and friends’ and ‘everyone’. Figure 1 shows that 75% of participantsallowed ‘everyone’ to view their profile. Almost 10% listed their phone number and homeaddress on their profile for ‘everyone’ to see.Figure 1. College Students and Social Networking Website Characteristics
Do you allow anyone to view your profile(s)?Yes 73.6% (117)
CASE STUDY 1On
5 September 2006,the social network site Facebook launched a feature called ‘News Feeds’. Uponlogging in, users were faced with a start page that listed and time-stamped every act undertaken by their friends within the system. This included who had befriended whom, who changed profile pictures, who had written on other people’s Walls and what they wrote, who had posted new photographs, who had altered their relationship status, who had joined or left a group, written a public note or altered their list of favourite books and movies. Many users were unnerved by the fact that their every move would be seen by such a wide audience. Although none of the information displayed in the News Feed was previously private per se, previously one had to go searching for it, but now News Feed announced details toeveryone in a Facebook circle and made the material far more accessible and visible. Within hours of thelaunch, users were forming groups such as “Students Against Facebook News Feeds” (which gathered over 700, 000 members) to express their frustration. Some users became worried about stalking: “It makes stalking way too easy...it scares me!” and “Facebook was creepy enough before...this is definitely crossing some sort of line”. Why did users feel this way? Because News Feeds disrupted the social dynamic. Theynow felt vulnerable, exposed and invaded when disclosing their data, and for many it affected the way theybehaved on Facebook.