Updated: Facebook Admits Mistake, Adds Controls
Field Report, Graham Webster, Sep. 8, 2006
By Graham Webster
UPDATED: Sept. 8, 2006, at 10:23 a.m. EDT
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Friday the launch of the controversial News Feed and Mini-Feed features was a mistake, according to an open letter posted on the site.
”[W]e did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them,” Zuckerberg writes. “I’d like to try to correct those errors now.”
The site introduced customizable feed settings at the same time, allowing users to opt in or out of sending various types of actions to their news feed. For instance, users can now withhold Feed “stories” when they write wall posts but publicize when they add a friend.
The new settings do not, however, give users total control. A short list of actions cannot be removed from the feed: “things you add to your profile, photos you upload or are tagged in, notes you write or are tagged in, groups you join or create, events you create or attend, networks you’ve joined, [and] status updates.”
An update posted Friday at the largest anti-Feed protest group criticized this ommission: “Apparently the changes were not complete, and groups still appear in your news feed. Although it can be considered minor, we asked for this: to be able to remove ourselves completely from news feed. This group will continue to advocate that position until that is fulfilled.” The group had grown past 740,000 members by Friday morning.
The new settings page suggests that Facebook may be open to more changes. There is a link for suggesting control over other features.
While most of the data aggregated by the feed was previously available publicly, the time-stamps added to actions were not previously available in some cases. The settings allow users to remove times from their Mini-Feeds.
These changes come a day after a top official for the website first revealed that new controls were in the works to Campus Progress.
“There will be more controls over the feed product in particular,” said Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, adding that work has been underway on the additional controls since before the Feed service was launched overnight Monday.
“There are controls built in through the network infrastructure already, and there was a sense that those controls were adequate,” Kelly said of the decision to launch without the added controls.
Kelly did not comment Thursday on whether users would be given the opportunity to opt out of the Feed system completely. “We’re still working on the particulars of what exactly it will look like,” he said.
“We’ve heard our users, as Mark [Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder] said in his blog post, and we’re working on giving people more control over the information,” Kelly said.
Controversy over the new features erupted Tuesday when users logged in to find the new feature, which records the minute-by-minute public actions of Facebook users and aggregates them in to news feeds.
Ben Parr, a junior at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., founded the massive anti-feed group after seeing one other. He didn’t spend much time promoting it, however.
“I told a couple of my friends on the internet to spread the word, and apparently it succeeded greatly,” Parr told Campus Progress Wednesday. Since he started the group, he said he has received “hundreds of Facebook messages, over a hundred friend requests, [and] media calls.”
One discussion topic in the group was called “I want Ben Parr to lose his virginity to me.” Asked what he thought of the advance, Parr said, “I apologize. I’m not quite interested.”