Facebook turns creeping table on users

Whether it’s gazing at your aunt’s pictures or reading your crush’s wall-to-wall with the competition, every Facebook user has participated in the guilty pleasure commonly known as creeping. Well, now Facebook is going to creep on you.

Feel violated?

In an effort to make the Web an interconnected social network, Facebook has launched an aggressive campaign to put its “Like” button all across the Internet, meaning users’ activity from other Web sites will appear on their Facebook pages.

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, wrote on his blog he believes the future of the Internet lies in personalized experiences such as Facebook’s “Like” button. Facebook has already signed up Pandora.com, the Internet radio station, and Yelp.com, which maps out recommended local businesses, to be guinea pigs in its “Like” button experiment.

Zuckerburg said the “Like” button, which users can opt out of, will allow Facebook and its partners to take users’ interests from across the Web and offer their services in a more specific manner. For instance, if while on Facebook, a user were to visit Pandora.com for the first time, the Internet radio’s site would immediately start playing music from bands that were “Liked” by the user on Facebook.

Also, users will be able to see shops and restaurants their Facebook friends “Liked” on Yelp, which could lead many businesses eager for the free advertising to put a “Like” button on their sites. This puts Facebook in direct competition with Twitter, which many people use to get early information on sales or news on the latest sports trade.

“If you ‘Like’ a band on Pandora, the site can tell you when the band you ‘Like’ is coming to your area,” Zuckerburg wrote.

But Facebook, which many have already questioned for taking ownership of all pictures and comments posted on its Web site, could run into privacy issues with this “Like” button.

Many feel the social networking site is, in essence, following users around the Internet. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) is one of the four Democratic senators calling on Facebook to change its privacy guidelines.

“As (social networking) sites become more and more popular, it’s vitally important that safeguards are in place that provide users with control over their personal information to ensure they don’t receive unwanted solicitations,” Schumer said in a press release.

Mike McChrystal, a law professor and an expert on privacy, said businesses like Facebook are free to make almost any agreement with their customers — hence the reason Facebook owns all users’ photos and comments.

“The issue is whether, once we get social, (do) we have the power to control the information even after we have given it out,” McChrystal said in an e-mail. “Mostly, the answer is no.”

McChrystal added most people don’t want to be private on the Web anyway.

“(People) go to social network sites, buy goods and services, and speak out about matters that interest them,” he said. “Much of what we do on the Web involves an interaction with others and is thus not truly private.”

Brett Bielanski, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, does not sympathize with those worried about Facebook’s privacy policy.

“The creators of Facebook own everything you put on there,” Bielanski said. “People need to understand that before using it.”

McChrystal said the privacy issues surrounding Facebook and the Internet are not likely to go away soon.

“Privacy will always be an issue on the Internet,” he said. “We must constantly choose what we wish to share of ourselves, and with whom we wish to share it.”