Do The New Facebook "Friendship" Pages Introduce Privacy Concerns?

Facebook has introduced a new feature that allows users to look back on friendships in their virtual entirety, from shared photos to wall posts and events. But will these “virtual scrapbooks” turn the page on yet another privacy concern?

Called “Friendship Pages,” the new feature is a standalone page that displays the shared history of two users, including photos in which they’ve been tagged, comments they have exchanged, events to which they’ve both RSVP’d, mutual friends and mutual “likes.”

The pages are designed to “bring back memories, conversations and times spent together” between two friends, according to Wayne Kao, the Facebook software engineer behind the project.

While Friendship Pages certainly adds another layer of complexity to the site, it does not make any information public that was not already available in the first place, but just aggregates it all in one place.

In order to see all the exchanges, you must have permission from both parties based on their privacy settings. Specifically, you must be friends with one and have access to the other’s full profile, in order to view the history of any two users.

“For those of us who have worked on it the best part is the human side of these pages,” Kao wrote on the company blog. “They can bring back memories, conversations and times spent together.”

The feature has already drawn complaints from users weary from the news of privacy breach after privacy breach involving the social networking giant. A main complaint following Kao’s blog post was the lack of a clear opt-in or opt-out button for the new feature as well as concerns that the easy-to-view format would make stalking on the site even easier.

“PLEASE FACEBOOK CREATORS, GET RID OF THIS FEATURE OR MAKE A PRIVACY SETTING TO TURN IT OFF,” was the reply from one user in North Carolina.

The feature was launched last week but will be rolled out gradually to all users. The Pages are accessible through the main photo on a person’s profile page, or through links from related wall posts, photos or relationship stories.

For users more concerned about their privacy than retracing a friendship, use this as an opportunity to reevaluate your privacy settings. To restrict who can view your Friendship Pages, click on “Account” in the upper right hand side of your Facebook homepage, click “Privacy Settings,” click “Friends Only,” and then “Apply These Settings.”

And, what is true for this feature is true for everything on Facebook, don’t put anything on the site that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with everyone.

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