Facebook (almost) gets it right!
announcement by Facebook that they are restructuring their Groups
feature to encourage more privacy is a welcome move. As The Tech Dad wrote on Wednesday,
Groups will now allow users to organize their friends the way they do
in real life – close friends, family, work colleagues, casual
acquaintances, or any other grouping that makes sense for a particular
Although members could previously use the Lists
feature to accomplish much the same thing, Groups is easier to set up
and requires very little maintenance. Want to share photos of the kids
with just the family? Just create a closed family group, add the people
you want, and start sharing.
Facebook gives lots of other examples
of potential groups: your fantasy football team, your book club, your
soccer team. The list is endless. In fact, with the addition of Groups,
sharing information on Facebook can start to mirror real life – you only
share on a need-to-know or want-to-know basis.
A couple of other
features make Groups even more attractive. One of them is group chat.
Until now, you were only able to chat with one person at a time on
Facebook. Now you can chat with everyone in your group at once. You can
also set up a group e-mail list, so members can keep in touch when
they’re not on Facebook.
Of course, being Facebook there had to be
a glitch. The ink was hardly dry on the press release before it was
discovered that apparently anyone can set up a group and “tag” anyone
else as a member. They don’t even have to be a friend – as long as the
group is “open”, they just need to be added in.
This made headlines when the blogger and founder of Maholo.com, Jason Calacanis,
discovered that he had been co-opted into a group called NAMBLA (the
North American Man-Boy Love Association). According to Calacanis, he was
never asked if he wanted to join the group, and wasn’t informed when,
in his words, he was “force-joined.”
Obviously, this can have
serious implications, not just for people’s reputations but also in
terms of spam and unwanted messages. If you can co-opt anyone into any
group, what is to stop you building a database of tens of thousands of
As it always does, Facebook will weather the storm
and put together a fix which will head off any serious revolt. In fact,
the more Mr. Zuckerberg and company stumble along, the more the
membership grows. People seem to realize that Facebook is not a perfect
world, but then neither is the real one!
Comment by geekbabe, posted 10/14/2010, 9:04 PM:
IMHO Facebook doesn't do anything by "accident" what do you think would happen to the average office worker, teacher if what happened to Jason happens to them? Mr. Zuckerberg has made his POV on the subject of online privacy very clear.
Given the ever increasing number of college admissions boards, employers etc who screen applicants Facebook pages, this incident is very serious indeed.