Facebook Opens Up

September 6, 2007

Okay, everybody and their uncle has blogged about this, so why not? It’s even on the Beeb:

Facebook Opens Profiles to Public (BBC)

Facebook2Facebook has made its search function public. What does this mean? Well, right now, it means that anyone can visit Facebook.com and search for members. Previously, you had to register to view search results, but Facebook now wants to give people who have never visited before the opportunity to stalk “find their friends”.

But that’s only half the story: in just under a month, people will be able to find your Facebook listing from widely used search engines like Google and Yahoo. At a stroke, Facebook has cut out the middle-man “people search engines” I blogged about just a couple of weeks ago.

They’ve also added fuel to the fire of the long-running debate about online privacy. Blogger Om Malik has weighed in with his opinion — his feet are firmly in the “bad idea” camp:

“Think broadly however, this is yet another small step in the overall erosion of personal privacy, thanks to the ever growing popularity of the social networks. I don’t like the direction where all this is headed… We are slowly leaving digital litter all over the web, and some day it is going to cause problems.”

To be fair to Facebook, they do allow you the option to opt out of any of this. In fact, by tweaking a few options on the privacy page, you can make your profile so private that not even your friends can see it! Personally, I’ve opted for a halfway-house: I’ve removed the ability to search for my profile from Google etc., but left it open to anyone visiting Facebook’s homepage. However, I think Facebook’s decision to make the default option the least private is highly dubious: i.e. if you do nothing, then in one month anyone can search for your profile from Google.

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