Online social networking giant Facebook has recently introduced a lot of changes in the way that its Web site operates and interacts with users. All of us have noticed it. The changes have supposedly been made to allow the site to be more interesting and user-friendly. The question, however, is whether Facebook may have gone a step too far.
As many as ten consumer and privacy groups, along Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Tex., have asked the Federal Trade Commission to inquire into the new features of the site and rule on their suitability, USA Today reports.
One of these features is the Timeline, which maps all of a user's activities, while Open Graph applications - designed to broadcast surfing patterns and online interests. The point is that while Facebook has always allowed users to share such information manually, the new features make much of this process automatic and also appear to tap deeper into available user data already accumulated by the company, according to Chris Calabrese, legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
There's a loss of user control, here. Combined with the permanent nature of the information, it means there is a lack of the ability for consumers to control and protect their online reputations, Calabrese adds.
However, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes, said that the new Timeline and Open Graph features are intended for users to be able to share their musical and other personal tastes, in an easier manner, with fellow users.
Laura Antonini, research attorney at Consumer Watchdog, suggested that Facebook, with its new features, disregards the privacy of its users by making sweeping changes that expose personal information without giving users the chance to choose what information they want shared with the world.
According to security experts, Facebook has also raised security concerns by encouraging its users to share more educational, career and health information.
Catalin Cosoi, a researcher at antivirus firm Bitdefender, says that crime gangs will almost certainly tap into the richer information Facebook users reveal about themselves to trick victims into infecting their PCs with a virus.
This will make it a lot easier to obtain valuable information about an individual, Cosoi adds.
In response to concerns, Facebook did say that it was taking proper measures to keep users safe.
We have technical systems that operate behind the scenes to flag suspicious behavior and slow it down or block it entirely, and we're constantly working to improve these, Noyes said.