While privacy issues have been a major concern for many of Facebook's 500+ million users, you might think their new "Subscribe To" feature would put them over the top. Actually in this instance, I think the new service -even though some are euphemistically calling it the "I Spy" button - just might give 'stalking' a good name.
This week, Facebook is apparently testing a new subscription component that would permit users to receive alerts any time a specific friend initiates certain actions on their Facebook page. Why I think this is a needed feature is that so often when you send out an updated status, it is often only available to a handful of one's friends who are viewing it in real-time. Other wise, like Twitter, it gets lost in the status stream - making it unlikely that all of your followers will get a chance to see it and react to it.
In an All Facebook report, it was noted that Facebook is in the process of testing the new feature so that "by subscribing you don't miss any updates from people you subscribe to." Presently it is believed that the feature will only be available to one's followers. To do so with those that you don't follow would be much more of a "stalker-like" feature.
Once the component is operational for all users - to activate the feature, all one would have to do is to "subscribe to" other followers. By doing so, they will receive that followers updated status entries on their own Facebook walls, to peruse at any time they see fit.
Where the service could be viewed by some as "stalking" - is on mobile devices. Receiving constant mobile notifications every time one of your friends posts - could become annoying. But as long as Facebook makes it easy to adjust that setting with an "opt in" or "opt out" feature, I think one could nip that potential problem in the bud with very little difficulty.
Yet some critics are not pleased with the new functionality. Gawker saw as it as "more like an attempt at making Facebook an even more convenient tool for stalkers than it already is." Emma Woollacott at TG Daily says, "while it doesn't allow stalkers to do anything they couldn't do before, it does make it an awful lot easier."
Perhaps ill-timed in introducing the new service, an actual Facebook stalking case has been making headlines. In Sydney, Australia, a mother-of-three, her daughter and daughter's friends have been subjected to a two-week ordeal at the hands of Facebook stalker- and according to reports have been unable to get the social networking company to intervene. The mother, who wished to remain anonymous due to a police investigation, said she, her 12-year old daughter and her daughter's friend had been stalked, harassed and sent pornographic images.
So readers, how do you weigh in on this issue? Do you feel that this new "subscribe" feature is innocuous and akin to Twitter's "lists" or do you see it as potentially opening up another Pandora's Box as an infringement on privacy?