New Facebook privacy features invite abuse

Tuesday night Facebook rolled out enhanced privacy features that allow users to customize the permissions of individual aspects of a profile. Almost immediately, BetaNews received a report of "life-threatening" abuse of this feature.

Popular social networking site Facebook is a repository of personal information for many, but until Tuesday, it lacked the ability to grant differing levels of access to different users. Previously, the only way to block other users from viewing specific content was to deny that user access to the profile outright, or to limit the profile's viewability to everyone. Now, users can choose which content each individual is allowed to view.

This enhanced level of granularity is a welcome addition to those who wish to streamline their profiles, making content available only to parties interested. However, not one day after these functions were added, a source close to BetaNews reported a group of college students used them to pull a slanderous prank on another student.

Since it is currently spring break at this college, and classes are adjourned until next week, the pranksters took advantage of the fact that all the students had gone home and posted a news feed upon Facebook that a fellow student had died. The student's funeral was even posted as an event, complete with a fake date and time, viewable by all except "the deceased."

The student's family reportedly received numerous calls from concerned acquaintances, whose condolences were met with the expected bewilderment.

This abuse shows just one way in which privacy functions can easily be turned into exclusivity functions, bringing the "rumor mill" concept fully into Facebook's repertoire of features.

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