FaceBook – Compromising on User Privacy?

Two days back, Facebook got a face lift with new sleek design and couple of interesting features. But somehow the new features didn’t go well with its loyal customer base. Close to 9 million users have revolted against these new feature!!

About the new features: (excerpts from their blog):

NewsFeed – News Feed highlights what’s happening in your social circles on Facebook. It updates a personalized list of news stories throughout the day.

Mini-Feed is similar, except that it centers around one person. Each person’s Mini-Feed shows what has changed recently in their profile and what content (notes, photos, etc.) they’ve added.

Basically, these features track your footprints on the site (whether you have added a friend or joined a new group or even when you leave a comment on other’s blog), and your contacts can watch all your activities on the site.

Somehow this sounds like “Big Brother is watching you” kinda phenomena and this is what has made users scream about their privacy.

While Facebook’s stickiness was attributed to its simplicity, the new set of features have suddenly changed that. IMHO, it’s too difficult for the regular users to digest these changes. First of all, the 2 feeds sound too confusing – what if I want to share selected footprints only with few friends, but not with other contacts?

And that’s the real pain for Facebook. Users have dumped the new features (citing privacy issues) and have launched sites as well as petitions to fight for their privacy.

As one of the users points out:

“When we join facebook, we automatically give up a little bit of our privacy. To use Facebook has always been “socially-acceptable stalking.” Now, though, they’ve just gone too damned far. No one wants their girlfriend or boyfriend knowing when they’ve commented on a photo, written on a wall, or anything else. No one wants people to see that they’ve left a group; it could offend someone. No one really wants to see the change in status of someone’s love life.”

Lessons for Product Managers: Do a user sample testing before implementing a 360 degree change. And never do anything that the users loses faith/trust in you. Especially with privacy even though its just a perceived threat (Mr. Goog, are you listening?).

Also see: AOL Data Leak: Save Yourself from Embarassment

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