Recently I noticed what appears to be some kind of bug — and potentially major privacy concern — on Facebook’s feed and ticker features. Let me explain the scenario:
For a moderate amount of time, I had been a “friend” with someone on Facebook, and we appeared to have full visibility of each others activities. Then, recently, I noticed that this person no longer appeared in my feeds or list of friends. I searched for this person on Facebook to no avail (zero results), and attempted to load this person’s Facebook profile using the custom URL, but was met with the standard error “The page you requested was not found”. This prompted me to assume that this person either (a) deactivated her/his page and left Facebook, or (b) un-friended me and tweaked the privacy settings to be essentially invisible to non friends. This didn’t bother me much, and I didn’t really think of it again.
Today, however, I noticed an update in my Ticker noting this person made a comment on some other Facebook user’s (not a friend of mine) page. This particular action also was reported in my main News Feed. I found it quite odd that suddenly I was seeing updates from this ex-friend. I proceeded to search my friends list, and s/he wasn’t there. I searched for this person’s name, and still received no results. I tried to load this peron’s URL, and got the same error message.
However, when I clicked the user name (this person’s real name) in the status update, I was taken to her/his Facebook profile page, only it now was a different URL with a different username.** But it was my former Facebook friend: same photo, same basic info, etc. I searched the friend list, and I wasn’t there (as expected). As far as I can tell, this person reactivated or recreated a new Facebook account, and simply decided not to friend me (fine). Yet, I’m not seeing activity from this person — this non Facebook friend — in my News Feed.
Has anyone else experienced this? Or have a possible explanation? My only guess is that perhaps the user is using the same email address for the new account, and some code within Facebook recognizes that I used to be friends with someone using that email, therefore it is making activity visible to me. This is troublesome, of course, since people unfriend for various reasons, all with the presumption that Facebook activity will no longer be made visible to former friends.
UPDATE: I’ve now realized that this former Facebook friend and I do share one friend in common. So it is possible that her/his privacy settings allow visibility of actions to “Friends of friends”. I will investigate further….
** I should point out that the new custom username for this former Facebook friend is not, as far as I know, this person’s name. Nor does it appear to be any other version of her/his name. To compare, it would be as if I created a new Facebook account with the custom URL of /george.kerplanski. This new username — perhaps created to help obfuscate this user’s new account — appears to violate Facebook’s guidelines, which states “Your username should be as close as possible to your true name”. I might be wrong about this, of course…