Facebook, the stalker's new best friend

Katie Gatto · September 3, 2010 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1195

Just another feature that makes our lives more transparent, for better or worse







Stalking is a pretty scary concept.

What's more terrifying is the ease at which this type of conduct can be carried out. Today you can be stalked from the comfort of someone's home, on a convenient one-stop-shop Web site designed to help people know where you are and what you are doing all of the time. Yes. This kind of a site already exists. It's called Facebook.

Or at least, it may be the Facebook of the future.

Facebook is adding a new feature, already unofficially dubbed - the Stalker Button -- which allows users to see specifically what you are doing. For now it only allows followers to see when they update their status, post a photo, or share a link. While these are the only features in the initial tests, more may be added to the feed. And, if it's hard to find people that you want to stalk, you can use the often-overlooked surname search feature to find them quickly and easily.

Combined with the use of Facebook's other new feature, Places, which is a digital check-in service that announces your location to everyone in your friend feed, it could create a privacy-related nightmare for end users.

No word yet on whether a person can opt-in or opt-out of being followed - which we hope is the case - or if the follow feature is religated to only a person's friend's list. Though it seems almost meaningless to follow a friend one would already get this information in the most recent section of their feed.

New privacy scare?

A new feature like this could certainly give privacy advocates more fodder to come down on Facebook. Facebook has already been cited by organizations, like the ACLU, for their treatment of the end user. Or, if you want to see it for yourself the Electronic Fronteer Foundation has an iinteresting time line of the changes to Facebooks privacy policy. The current incarnation states "The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.” ... Because it takes two to connect, your privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile page," which essentially means that your privacy on the Web is your own concern. Of course, Facebook has been cited for issues like sharing information with third-party developers, forcing the friend feed on end users and auto enrolling users in geographic based groups.

Additionally, this new feature could have legal ramifications that are hard to even imagine at this point. Consider the story of a man who was arrested for sending a friend request to his soon-to-be-ex-wife. Apparently, he violated his restraining order.

Currently, the Facebook follow feature is currently in testing with a small percentage of end users on the site. The feature does not have a release date for the general public.

No immediate comment was available from Facebook at this time.

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