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Users protest over 'creepy' Facebook update

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The introduction of new features on social network site Facebook has sparked a backlash from users. Design changes to the site violate user privacy and ought to be scrapped, according to disgruntled users who have launched a series of impromptu protests. One protest site is calling for users to boycott Facebook on 13 September in opposition against a feature called News Feed, which critics argue is a Godsend for stalkers.

News Feed appears automatically on every user's home page and automatically updates members about recent Facebook activities by that person's friends. For example, Facebook would automatically notify users whenever a photo is posted by friends or they split up with their boyfriend or girlfriend. The feature is designed to make it easier for friends to keep up to date with each other. But many users are unhappy that the feature has been pushed upon them.

"News Feed is just too creepy, too stalker-esque, and a feature that has to go," a statement by the newly formed group Students against Facebook News Feed states, Reuters reports.

Another new, and far less controversial feature, called Mini-Feed, which appears in each person's profile, shows recent changes to a user's profile. Members have the control to remove entries they'd rather keep to themselves.

Facebook has expanded beyond its college student base to rack up 9.5m members, mainly in the US, leaving it second behind only MySpace in the social network site market. More than 500,000 of these users have signed an online petition calling on Facebook to scrap News Feed. Users continue to have control over what information they publish on members pages. But this factor has done little to dampen the controversy. The protest comes at a critical time for Facebook when college students are due to return to their studies after their summer holidays, an event that normally brings with it an influx of new subscribers.

"Calm. down. breathe. We hear you," site founder Zuckerberg wrote in a message responding to the protests. "We think they [Mini-Feed and News Feed] are great products, but we know that many of you are not immediate fans, and have found them overwhelming and cluttered. Other people are concerned that non-friends can see too much about them."

"We agree, stalking isn't cool; but being able to know what's going on in your friends' lives is... Nothing you do is being broadcast; rather, it is being shared with people who care about what you do - your friends," he added. ®

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