Facebook has created a new ‘Groups’ product that allows users to share information with a small subset of peers in their friends list. Instead of posted content being available to everyone you’ve ‘friended’, Groups has been designed to allow you to select specific friends to share particular information with – meaning greater control for users over their content.
"A lot of people talk about this as a privacy problem,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a recent event at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto, California. "I think it’s an annoying problem.”
Sometimes, however, the cure is worse than the disease.
It now seems that people can be thrown into ‘groups’ without their consent, leading one tech prankster to create a group for NAMBLA — the North American Man/Boy Love Association — and add to that group several well-known tech journalists without having to ask consent.
One of the journalists added to the group, Jason Calacanis of Mahalo, wrote about the experience in his blog and published an open letter to Mark Zuckerburg which read:
"I know I’m not a member of NAMBLA, and I’m going to guess that Mike [Arrington of TechCrunch] isn’t either...I’ve now been assigned to a group that advocates… well… ummm… you can look it up — it’s very bad....I was never asked to join the NAMBLA group....I was never informed that I was ‘force-joined’ to the NAMBLA group”.
Facebook responded by pointing out that only people who you are friends with can add you to a group, meaning that the onus is on users to carefully select who they become friends with in the first place. Secondly, users can opt out of any group at any time.
Jaime Schopflin, a spokesman for Facebook, said in response to an AFP inquiry that "If you have a friend that is adding you to groups you do not want to belong to, or they are behaving in a way that bothers you, you can tell them to stop doing it, block them or remove them as a friend — and they will no longer ever have the ability to add you to any group”.