Soon millions of Facebookers won’t be incognito

Social network Facebook will soon make the listings – the name and photo – of its 40 million active members available to anyone who searches the Internet on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. But in its pursuit of building a bigger audience, Facebook has set off privacy alarms among customers who don’t necessarily want their listings to be an open book.

Some Facebook users say they are perturbed because they joined the service so they could choose whom they communicate with – and not be exposed to the Internet at large.


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“Why (is Facebook) opting-in their customers for Internet searches?” says Kiyoshi Martinez, 22, a website assistant for a chain of community newspapers in Orland Park, Ill. “For the addicted user, like myself, it is not a big deal. But for occasional users, they will be surprised when they show up on Google.”

Unless members adjust their own privacy settings, their listings will start showing up in Internet searches in early October. Last week, Facebook made limited member profiles available to non-Facebook members with a new search box at the bottom of the Facebook homepage.

A public search listing will yield the name and profile picture of any Facebook member with a search privacy setting set to “Everyone.” The full profile of a user, which includes their interests, hometown, birthdate and friends, would not be viewable.

“We wanted to give people who had never come to Facebook, or who are not currently registered, the opportunity to discover their friends who are on Facebook,” the company said in a statement.

Making user listings available on huge search engines such as Google and Yahoo should drive millions more people to the Facebook site, making it an even more lucrative advertising vehicle, says Michael Hussey, CEO of PeekYou, a search engine with profiles of more than 50 million people.

That is particularly timely for Facebook, as it readies a new plan to place more targeted ads on its site. Facebook, which started as a network for college students and expanded to high schools and workplace networks, has beefed up its membership by a factor of four after it made its service available to everyone a year ago.

For some Facebook members, however, the policy change is troubling, because many chose the service because it is private. “I’m amazed that they seem to be opting-in literally millions of people who never asked for Facebook to put listings out in the public,” says Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com and a Facebook user.

Jaco Joubert, 22, who recently graduated from York University in Canada, says he’ll probably ditch Facebook for LinkedIn, a site used for business networking. “Facebook used to be private,” says Joubert, who has used it for two years.

Still, many who have studied Facebook’s change in policy say the company has preserved its sensitivity to privacy by limiting profile listings on search engines and giving its customers fair warning.

“Anyone who is online cannot assume that everything they post online is safe,” says Andrea Weckerle, a new-media strategist in San Francisco. “There are enough unfortunate breaches of security, and there is always a certain level of risk.”


Via Yahoo

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