Web 2.0: Facebook to let Search Engines access Member Info


I went into Facebook today and it said: “Check out your Public Search Listing. Now people can search for this listing from Facebook’s Welcome page. In a few weeks, it may also be found through search engines like Google. Since your search privacy settings are set to “Everyone,” you now have a public search listing. This means that friends who aren’t yet on Facebook will be able to search for you by name from our Welcome page. ”

What?!?

Here is the Facebook blog entry explaining it. I wonder if it says it on everyone’s profile page, because I went to the facebook homepage and saw it. Most people would not do that.

And per the Reuters article titled “Facebook lets users choose to publicize themselves“:

“Starting later today, Facebook will begin notifying members they have a choice over whether to keep their listings private or to allow Facebook to make their name and profile picture available when outsiders search the site.Unlike most sites on the Web, Facebook has previously denied access by search services to information on the site. But after notifying users over the next 30 days of its plans to open up basic profile listings of its members, Facebook plans to begin allowing sites like Google (GOOG.O), Yahoo (YHOO.O) or others to “crawl,” or index, its public member profiles.

Early next month, non-members of Facebook will be able to type the names of friends or acquaintances into a search box on Facebook’s home page at http://www.facebook.com to see if they have public profiles on Facebook in order to contact them.”

This is an extremely controversial move by Facebook, as it has been extremely careful of its members information and has been seen as a safe and secure alternative to MySpace. MySpace does not control who accesses the member information, thus making parents of children using it concerned about internet predators and members in general wary of who is viewing their data.

Facebook has already created controversy by becoming more open and by starting to promote itself to adults as opposed to its original premise of being created for students. This changes the whole Facebook concept and changes it more into a MySpace type network. Facebook was unique in that it was not an open social network and the students using it felt more secure, both from outside searches and from their parents and teachers.

I have recently joined Facebook and I am surprised at the number of people who use it. I had been under the impression that MySpace was the main one and Facebook was fringe. Especially since I’d looked at it earlier and it just didn’t seem applicable to me since I was not a student, did not belong to a school (network) and since I was not working at IBM any longer, I could not look up co-workers in the IBM network (not that it would have done much good since there are thousands of IBM employees and no way to refine the search that I could see). And the security was tight to the point of paranoia it seemed. In order for me to join the IBM group, I had to have an IBM email address which they would verify before allowing me to join. And this is after they opened it up to work groups as well as school groups.

Now, when I went to Facebook, it says that since I’m set to “everyone”, search engines will access me on Facebook. While I don’t mind search engines finding me in general, the whole point of Facebook has always been its privacy. So I changed my privacy settings and now I’m not sure who can or can’t see me or my information. There are so many options of what people can and can’t see and who can see this profile vs. that profile vs. nothing at all, that I don’t know if the people I want to find me can still find me anymore. But I don’t want ‘everyone’ (including search engines) so I had to choose at most, anyone in my networks and friends. I could also choose the following to access my profile: people in college, high school, company, regional and/or no networks. But what good does that do?

Then there was a selection of things that those people who saw my profile could do, like poke me, message me, add me as a friend, see my picture and view my friend list. It’s getting more and more complicated! Then there is a whole other page where I can get more specific, like which parts of my profile are available to people that I contact or who contact me or who I’ve banned or limited or on and on and on….

Actually, these may always have been there since it was set up to be exceptionally secure. Except now it seems you have a choice of exceptionally secure, or everyone and search engines can view. And you have to jump through hoops to figure out how to set it the way that allows access within Facebook and not without.

I don’t know, it seems like a mistake to me and certainly opens up the playing field to another “Facebook” to come along and take its place, just like it did to MySpace.

I’ll be very interested in seeing if Facebook emails me something explaining the changes. But the main thing right now is for anyone on Facebook who thought their information was private, you better get in there and make sure, because chances are it won’t be.

~Susan Mellott

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