Facebook friendship pages controversy

By Chris Melvin

Boasting a growing 500 million regular users, the Facebook group have launched the latest new feature for their clients on the social networking site: the “friendship” tool.

The now widely recognised Facebook logo.

This software – befittingly titled “Friendship Pages” – will be installed on a rolling basis over the next few weeks and allows users to see a collection of common information between contacts: tagged photos together; mutual friends and likes; events attended together, and a section for wall posts and comments. This is not limited to solely a user and another – one can connect any combination of their contacts.  Other users can access the Friendship Page if said the users give permission via their privacy settings.

The tool aims to provide a new way of analysing information in order to tackle the complaint that easily keeping up-to-date with specific profiles is difficult for those with several hundreds of friends.

Facebook software engineer, Wayne Kao, commented on his involvement in the project: “for those of us who have worked on it, the best part is the human side of these pages. They can bring back memories, conversations and times spent together.”

However, there have been a hoard of complaints launched against the new implementation – most publicly on a blog posted on its initial US launch. One Facebook user, Lucy Michaela Adams (boasting over 750 friends), commented on the blog saying:

Example Friendship Page

“This is just an invasion of privacy.
Why not simply allow a user to view the history between oneself and a friend? Currently it is allowing anyone you are ‘friends with on Facebook’ to view how you interact with other people…its too much! By putting all the information together in one place it takes the fun out of Facebook […] surely this defeats the whole point of Facebook if people stop interacting with each other!”

Since then, a defiant Facebook Page appropriately entitled ““Opt Out of the FB Friendship Feature” has been created whose main concern is the lack of an option to block the application via privacy settings. The page, now showing 670 fans and growing, states in its info section that “[the application] is stripping the Facebook community of their right to Privacy and choice.” Many of its protesters state that the Friendship Pages are “creepy” and encourage “stalking”.

In contrast, many users do in fact welcome the changes, with several users agreeing with Kao. Lauren Davies, a member of Facebook, commented saying: “I don’t understand the controversy – it isn’t an issue of privacy at all. All the information that can be seen on the Friendship Pages can also be seen elsewhere, though less easily. There is just as much stalking going on, with or without the pages”.

The Facebook group have yet to comment on whether they will implement an “opt out” feature, though it is likely to be covered by their privacy settings.