Facebook to revise feeds

Administrators of Facebook launched new controls for its “News Feed” and “Mini-Feed” instant-update features Thursday night, following three days of protest by hundreds of thousands of students worldwide — including many Yalies — who use the social-networking site.

After the addition of the two features to the site Tuesday, an online outpouring of anxiety over user privacy prompted Facebook to give users additional controls over information reported in the feeds.

Facebook spokeswoman Carolyn Abram said in an e-mail that the new controls were created to regulate the availability of users’ information.

“The launch of News Feed and Mini-Feed is consistent with how we roll out products — release, gain feedback and modify — and the response we have heard from many of our 9 million users has not been ignored,” Abram said.

The News Feed, which appears on Facebook users’ home pages, details the most recent activities — including wall posts and changes in relationship status ­— by a user’s friends, while the Mini-Feed appears on individuals’ profile pages and tracks their activity on the site.

In the original version of the feature, users could hide Mini-Feed stories about themselves by clicking on “X” buttons to the right of the individual entries.

Many students who use Facebook said they have been hoping the site would modify or eliminate the new feeds.

Increased control is a step in the right direction, said Igal Aciman ’07, one of more than 680,000 members of the global Facebook group “Students Against Facebook News Feed (Official Petition to Facebook).”

“People should have the option to opt out of the news feeds,” he said. “It is an invasion of privacy.”

More than 500 new Facebook groups responding to the new feeds have emerged this week — though not all groups are critical of the changes. Yalies have joined groups ranging from “WTF Facebook?” to “Actually, I Like the Facebook News Feeds.”

While some Yale students said the latest additions to the site violate their privacy by making even unremarkable Facebook changes viewable to hundreds of people, others hailed the features as another useful way to keep tabs on their acquaintances.

“It certainly makes stalking easier,” said Ashley Malone ’09, a member of a group titled “Facebook’s New Feed Feature Makes It So Easy to Stalk All My Friends.”

But Malone said that although the information presented by the feeds was previously available to users’ friends who explored the site, the new features make user activities too transparent.

Some students were not aware that they could control the information in their personal mini-feed.

“I didn’t know that,” Christine Bui ’10 said when she was told that mini-feed stories could be hidden. “Well, it gives me some comfort, but it’s kind of tedious to have to do it every single time you do something on Facebook.”

Other Yale students have welcomed the additional features. David Rudnick ’09 created a group titled “Heil Zuckerburg” in mock honor of the site’s creator, Mark Zuckerburg.

“Mark has done good things for all of us, and people too readily forget that in times of trouble,” Rudnick said. He said that he created the group to “publicly apologize [to Zuckerburg] that some people are doubting him.”

Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Rudnick attributed the growth of his Facebook group, which currently has more than 40 Yale members, to people “gradually beginning to realize that [the News Feed] only enriches our lives.”

Janet Xu ’08 said she saw the reaction to this latest addition to Facebook as different from the response to features added to the site in the past.

“I don’t know what [Facebook] is going to do,” said Xu, who has been a Facebook member since early 2004, when the site was available only to Ivy League students. “Facebook has never had this sort of uproar over a change before.”

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