I've just sent the following mass e-mail to all my Friendster friends, and their reaction has convinced me that this is an issue of universal significance.
I just discovered that Friendster has a creepy new feature that not only allows you to see HOW MANY people have viewed your profile, but WHO those people are. This freaks me out. The good thing is, you can turn it off (i.e. make it so other people can't see that you've looked at their profile). Go to "my settings" in the upper right hand corner, and there's a setting below that says "view profiles anonymously."
They've clearly been collecting this data for a while, because it shows me a lonnnnng list of people that have viewed my profile (and furthermore, my preliminary tests indicate that changing your privacy settings do not retroactively remove you from anyone's "Who's Viewed Me" list). In addition to being a creepy feature to begin with, I think it's really crappy for Friendster to add this feature w/o posting a big notification about it. if you want to complain (like I do) send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find this feature by clicking on "Who's Viewed Me" on the left hand side of your Friendster home screen, under your photo. I was so shocked and angry, I sent the following e-mail to Friendster:
I have several comments about the new ability to see who has viewed your profile on Friendster.
- In the future, when adding a feature that significantly changes a
fundamental character of the system (browsing profiles freely and
anonymously), I would appreciate PROMINENT notification!
- Furthermore, you should be able to give people a chance to opt out from
the beginning of this feature (although it is possible to set my account for
anonymous browsing, the "who has viewed my profile" list extends far
backwards from today, which was the first day I noticed this feature).
- Finally, especially when adding a feature with no warning, the DEFAULT
setting should be the one that provides the most privacy and control to the
users (i.e. allowing people to turn ON this feature, not requiring them to
turn it off).
For some people, this may be a wake up call--"holy crap, all these people have been inspecting my profile!?!" All of us would do well to remember that Friendster is ultimately a huge repository of extremely detailed personal information, available to anyone who knows your last name, where you live, where you grew up, or where you went to school. For me, this change is ultimately an issue of embarrasment--I don't necessarily want all my friends from elementary school to know I like to spend my spare time looking up anybody whose last name I can remember.
But the important point is: Friendster suddenly and without notice changed a fundamental assumed feature of the community--that you could look at anybody's profile you wanted to, while remaining anonymous yourself. Before this change, people who did not want random people to look at their profiles could change their settings accordingly. To apply this new feature retroactively and without notice really feels like a serious invasion of privacy. I don't like it. Do you?