I was up at the Stern Center getting a bite to eat today (the only fast food in walking distance, after all) and saw that the VOX “passion party”, a unique and creative way to attract attention to reproductive health and rights issues, was unexpectedly canceled. Further investigation revealed that the College’s administration made the decision to shut down the event in what appears to be the 11th hour. VOX president Kaytlin Bailey is withholding comment at this time but will be making a statement soon. That’s all I know right now — I’m very, very curious to hear more soon, particularly why the administration would decide to shut down an event that, in the past, has been permitted to go on despite its controversial nature. This indicates to me that these prior parties were done in good taste and had educational value, so I am at a loss as to why this year is somehow different. What really blows my mind is that the administration had to be apprised of the party because it was being held in College facilities. It’s very odd. Was the administration spooked by the George Street Observer? Did a parent find out about it and complain? Hopefully some light will be shed on this soon, because this just adds a little more chill to the air, if you know what I mean…
As I anticipated several days ago, Facebook has brought privacy settings for the News and Mini Feed features live, the result of well over a half a million Facebook users that demonstrated outrage and protested over the News Feed feature, which debuted as a way to keep in touch with what friends are up to but was largely panned as a privacy violation (despite the information being aggregated by the feed being public information anyway).
Facebook has listened to these complaints loud and clear, though, and brought some nice settings to the table. You can now add and subtract things that you would rather not Facebook broadcast as stories, which is a great thing. The timestamps can also be disabled as well so that movements aren’t tracked.
Mark Zuckerberg has a nice open letter to Facebook users on a user’s Facebook homepage this morning. In it, he defends the Mini-Feed feature and goes further and explains the importance of the free flow of information on the Internet.
I will say that launching without additional privacy options has hurt Facebook tremendously, but the fact that they were able to add this in very quickly is a good, good thing.
In the future, I’d like to see Facebook commission a “beta team” of sorts and enable special features on a limited number of users’ profiles who would like to test certain features before they make it to the public. I feel a little field testing in this matter, rather than popping it out to the public in one giant surprise, would have saved a lot of…erm…face. ;)
A quick look at techmeme shows a wide variety of opinions on the new Facebook Feeds feature, from the irate to the supportive. There are even those who go as far to call it an invasion of privacy. Ironically, I’ve seen a lot of notes in my News Feed (lol) from people who are freaking out because they “have to watch what they do now.”
In the words of Bill Nye, consider the following:
- You have always had to watch what you do now on Facebook, MySpace, or any other social networking site. This rule is the same regardless of the feed feature. If you don’t want to broadcast an action to the world, just delete it from your mini-feed. Simple. (That being said, there should be a way to opt completely out of the mini-feed system, and I get a gut feeling that’s going to happen.)
- It’s not an invasion of privacy if the information is already public knowledge to your networks. A privacy invasion would be Facebook broadcasting transactions that the privacy settings specifically mask, and that’s not happening.
I think it’s very interesting how the aggregation of the movements of Facebook users have sparked so many complaints. It seems like there’s been more outrage to the Facebook issue than there has been to government-sponsored data mining of the telecom records of American citizens, a fact that I find extremely interesting. At least you can control who sees your movements on Facebook. As stated above, I fully expect Facebook to make Mini-Feed broadcasting an optional feature, and that’s fair. I, for one, will elect to continue using it — I generally like people to know what’s going on with me, particularly if they’re my friends, so it’s not that big of a deal to me. The fact that I can remove items from the mini-feed is good enough for me if in fact I did do something shady that I don’t want my friends to know about. That, and I really like seeing the status changes, posts to my wall, and the new photos that my friends have posted in my News Feed. I’ve known a lot of people over the years; I can’t conceivably have deep conversations with all of them every day. I honestly think this is a dynamite feature that no one else will be able to even remotely pull off. My only criticism of this feature is that it has cluttered my profile tremendously; perhaps permitting some customization of the location of items on profiles and the number of mini-feed items is in order.
One thing that will result from the implementation of this feature is that people will inevitably tone down the explicit details of their extracurricular activities (cough) on their profile, as the feeling that they’re being watched has seemed to finally set in (despite the fact that risk is inherent in using any public Web service).