News feeds spark concern among users

By Erin Lindsay

Facebook is watching you.

That claim, made by the Facebook group “Students For Facebook Privacy,” has inspired a petition with more than 74,000 signatures nationwide.

The petition, as well as thousands of other Facebook groups, including one featuring more than 700,000 members as of press time, has erupted as a result of a decision Tuesday to create “news-feed” and “mini-feed” features on the student network, home to over nine million users. “Students for Facebook Privacy” creator Kiyoshi Martinez said the feeds share far too much about users.

“The mini-feed is information that you broadcast to others and say here’s everything I’ve done,” Martinez, graduate student at Springfield and former editor in chief of The Daily Illini, said. “It’s like broadcasting with a bullhorn.”

A feed is a list of alerts for changes friends make to any Facebook profile. Martinez says his online group, formed with roommate Jeremy Pelzer, also a Springfield graduate student and former news editor of The Daily Illini, represents the general surprise and discontent of users.

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“There is no privacy setting, you can’t disable them, you can’t block them and you can’t turn them off,” Martinez said.

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes guaranteed students that information previously hidden would not appear in feeds.

Students have also formed groups defending the change. Marty McCrory, senior in FAA, created, “Anti-Anti-New-Facebook Layout,” in response to what he deems unnecessary criticism.

Sam George, junior in LAS founded “Keep the New Facebook because it Makes Stalking WAAAY Easier” group and said the situation is humorous.

“[Privacy] was such a big deal, when all along that was the purpose of Facebook,” he said.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook creator, responded in a Web post titled “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.” He told users to be patient and assured them that no privacy options had been removed.

Zuckerberg said the company “failed to communicate to our users actively what it actually meant for them.”

Students are also voicing their opinions outside of Facebook. Web sites have been forming with suggestions for fighting back. One site encourages a boycott to be held Sept. 12, one week after the change. George believes the supposed boycotts are a facade.

“Students are so reliant,” George said. “They wouldn’t dare not use it to make a point.”

Zuckerberg encourages users to continue giving feedback. The company claims that changes are being made, but a concrete plan has yet to be determined.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.