Earlier this week, the creators of Facebook added a new feature to the popular website, prompting a nationwide uproar from hundreds of thousands of students.
The feature, dubbed Facebook News Feed, allows users to view the exact times their friends add photos, update their profiles, leave wall posts and join groups — even going as far as to notify friends when couples break up — and has been described by some users on the site as "stalker-like."
Northwestern University freshman Kelsey Stoerzinger said she liked the site initially because it allowed her to carefully review who could view her personal information. Now, she's concerned about the security of her profile and has created a Facebook group in protest called "The New Facebook is Creepy and Dumb."
"While a homepage used to consist of simply things that pertained to me, it's now littered with every detail of the actions of people, some that I hardly know," she said. "Now, I could say that it's just full of annoying things that I don't care about; it's bigger than that. It's filled with things that I really have no business knowing."
On his blog on the website, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg assures users he has heard the negative response from students and that they're working on solutions.
"We agree, stalking isn't cool," he wrote. "But being able to know what's going on in your friends' lives is."
Zuckerberg assured users that their privacy is still protected.
"None of your information is visible to anyone who couldn't see it before the changes," he added.
The new feature also prompted the creation of a group to petition Facebook called Students Against Facebook News Feed. As of last night, the group had over 370,000 members nationwide, up from 250,000 at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Included in the group is a link to an online petition against the News Feed. The petition had collected over 61,000 signatures as of press time, but at one point Wednesday afternoon it grew by 10,000 people in a single hour.
Protecting students' personal information has been a concern of university administrators nationwide as Facebook and other similar web sites have grown in popularity over the past two years. While she was not familiar with the newest controversy, University of Wisconsin Interim Dean of Students Lori Berquam said that, although students like to be constantly updated, she is a little suspicious of the new feature.
"I am always cautious about what is shared," Berquam said. "Too much information about a situation can be awkward in the future. It is okay for some things to be private and sacred."
Despite the hundreds of thousands of critics, there are some students around the country who do like the new features. Ryan Aghabozorg, a freshman at the University of Texas, created the group "Students Who Kind of Like the New Facebook" in support of the changes.
"One of the main reasons that I like the new layout of Facebook is that when somebody comments on one of your photos, it shows up in the news feed on the home page," Aghabozorg said.
"Students Who Kind of Like the New Facebook" had 81 members nationwide, as of press time.
Aghabozorg said he believes much of the controversy over the redesign was sparked because the change occurred very quickly.
"The new Facebook just seems more intuitive, but I have to admit that it does take some getting used [to]," he added. "I guess it kind of shocked people when the mini-feed started tracking everything that they did on Facebook."