Social networking site Facebook has risked provoking anger and user backlash by enabling search engines to access the details of its members. Currently only those who have a Facebook account are able to view other users’ information.
A picture and the name of the user will soon be available on search engines. The move looks to have been initiated to increase revenue raised through advertising, by increasing the number of Facebook users.
Facebook is a goldmine for advertisers and so far, the revenue potential of the network has not been met. The service contains a wealth of invaluable information for advertisers, such as user demographics, personal interests, associations and connections between members.
This is not the first time Facebook has come under scrutiny for privacy reasons. There were numerous complaints made when the news feed feature was released. This allowed friends to view what interaction was made with their profile. Like a friend being added or removed and the messages left on the profiles wall. The news feed service was kept and the number of Facebook users exponentially increased.
If a user does not want their profile listed in the search engines there is a privacy option available in their account. Granted some may not want such basic information to be available but that information is already accessible to those who have a Facebook account. What will change is the number of people who can potentially view a user profile.
The reality of social networking sites is that, most will try to generate revenue from advertising. Being able to access, a limited profile of Facebook users will, amongst other things, allow old school friends to connect and open up networking opportunities that are not available off line. For the majority of users that is the sole reason for using Facebook – to connect and communicate. A minority will try and exploit user information, however that same group will take advantage of those who simply install windows, get a high speed internet connection and do not sign up to any social networking sites.
Facebook is a business whose revenue is generated by its users. Keeping them happy and active is their primary concern. Privacy is a contentious issue, but there are features available that will still allow users to communicate simply with friends privately. It is a valid privacy issue, but not one that will result in a mass defection of users. The benefits of the service far out weigh the potential negative side. Where else can you find a long lost friend who has since moved overseas, join a group solely dedicated to discussing 1930′s horror movies and support a man who claims he will call his son batman if 150 000 join his group.