FaceBook takes a step too far?

Very interesting article in today’s New York Times

But alas, it turns out that even among the MySpace generation, there is such a thing as too much information.

That threshold was reached, unexpectedly, earlier this week when the social networking site Facebook unveiled what was to be its killer app. In the past, to keep up with the doings of friends, Facebook members had to make some sort of effort — by visiting the friend’s Web page from time to time, or actually sending an e-mail or instant message to ask how things were going.

Facebook’s new feature, a news “feed,” does that heavy lifting for you. The program monitors the activity on its members’ pages — a change in one’s relationship status, the addition of a new person to one’s friends list, the listing of a new favorite song or interest — and sends that information to everyone in your circle in a constantly updating news ticker. Imagine a device that monitors the social marketplace the way a blinking Bloomberg terminal tracks incremental changes in the bond market and you’ll get the idea.

But within hours of the new feature’s debut, thousands of Facebook members had organized behind a desperate, angry plea: Make it stop.

“You pretty much are being tracked with every movement you make on Facebook,” said Emily Bean, a pharmacy major and Facebook user at Ohio Northern University who signed an anti-Facebook petition on Tuesday, when the new feature made its debut. “It’s like someone peeking in on my conversations. People now know exactly when you became friends with somebody. When you hook up with somebody is now documented. Before it took some extra effort.

”While much of the anger was directed specifically at Facebook and its chief executive and co-founder, the 22-year-old Harvard graduate Mark Zuckerberg, some of the site’s users saw the episode in a broader context.

“Because our generation has been so obsessed with putting themselves up on the Internet and obsessed with celebrity, we didn’t realize how much of our personal information we were putting out there,” said Tim Mullowney, a 22-year-old aspiring actor in Brooklyn and a Facebook user. “This really shows you how much is out there. You don’t see it until you get it served on a platter to you.”

Mr. Mullowney said the Facebook episode had opened his eyes to a surprising conclusion: “I don’t need to know every little detail of everyone’s life.”