Facebook Allowing Profiles to be Crawled by Google

Remember last fall when Facebook got itself in all kinds of trouble for unilaterally creating and automatically activating “feeds” of its users’ changes to their profile pages? They scrambled to try to reign in this privacy-threatening feature, and promised to maintain an environment where users “have control over whom they shared [their] information with.”

How quickly they forget.

Fred Stuztman reports (and if you’re into social networking theory and not reading Fred’s blog, you’re missing out) that Facebook recently began exposing profiles to be indexed by Google. Fred writes:

Granted, profiles are still private, but how will people feel about their profile being indexed in Google? At the same time, there seems to be no way to turn this functionality off, and Facebook help documents have no mention of this new “feature.”

These types of context-leaps have caused problems for Facebook in the past. When newsfeeds were turned on with no privacy, Facebook failed to understand that privacy was both quantitative and qualitative. A context jump from “searchable within Facebook” to “searchable in Google” is a big deal. The fact Facebook was not upfront with its users in saying “we’re going to be letting Google in to index our userbase” is troubling. Even more troubling is the seeming inability to opt in or out of this service. I’d rethink this approach.

The more things change….

UPDATE: Looks like David Dalka originally discovered this a few weeks ago, and demanded a “noindex option for my profile so that community users can fully see and search my profile when inside the community while not allowing outside search engines to index it.” Seems Facebook still hasn’t acted on this issue.

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