September 12, 2006
Thousands of users of the social networking website Facebook were calling for a boycott of the site on Tuesday. That boycott didn't materialize, but there is still a controversy brewing.
Operators of the online hangout Facebook made some controversial changes to the site last week; changes that are drawing complaints from users, who say they feel like they are being stalked.
“It’s an invasion of privacy. They go way to in depth to what people do, what people post,” says UVa First Year, Eugene Resnick.
Last week, Facebook started delivering automated alerts known as News Feeds about a user's closest friends, classmates and colleagues. Users who log on might instantly find out that someone they know has joined a new social group, posted more photos or begun dating someone new.
“It’s too much. You see your friends and you just see [on Facebook] that they just broke up with their boyfriends, and do you say something? It's awkward,” said UVa First Year, Gabrielle Plotkin.
Operators of the site say they were just trying to save users time by highlighting changes that their friends make to their personal profile pages. Instead, the new feature has drawn complaints from thousands of users and even threats of a boycott, Tuesday.
“There was a whole Facebook group saying boycott on September 12th. Many people do not want to do that because they feel it’s pointless because the owner is not going to do anything anyway,” said Resnick.
The owner did admit he made a mistake and has now added new privacy controls. Still UVa officials warn students to be cautious about their profiles, pictures, and online conversations.
“I think what it illuminates for us is the lack of privacy in the site itself and we want to remind students to use their privacy settings as a way in fact to keep that kind of thing from happening,” said University of Virginia Dean of Students, Penny Rue.
After all, students will continue to use the site.
“It is very vital to many people's lives. It is central, it really is,” said Resnick.
Students who were interviewed that use Facebook said that although they don't like the invasion of privacy, they will continue to have up-to-date profiles on the website. There are 7 million students that are registered Facebook users.