Why Facebook’s relationship pages creep me out over privacy

Why Facebook’s relationship pages creep me out over privacy

Summary: Facebook has updated its Friendship Pages showing creepy joint pages for couples. More disturbingly, you can browse relationships and see conversations between your other Facebook friends.


Last week Facebook gave its Friendship Pages a revamp and I am really uncomfortable with the result. The new look Friendship Pages combine tagged photos and posts of you and your Facebook friend handily on the same page.

I can now see the relationship I have with any of my friends and a record of each interaction I have with them. You can see your own relationship at http://facebook.com/us. From there you can see your relationship, complete with profile photo, wall posts and comments on photos you have shared.

To see shared posts with any of your other Facebook friends, click on the gear button at the top of a friends profile page to see your shared friendship page.

Are you happy with what you see?

Is your shared profile photo the image you want to have as your profile photo? Mine certainly is not. You have not created this page, the other person did not create this page. You probably did not even know that you had a shared Facebook friendship page showing your relationship.

If you are listed as single on Facebook, clicking on the http://facebook.com/us page will invite you to update your relationship.

zack and mary jo
Credit: Facebook

With 1 billion Facebook accounts, there is a very good chance that you are probably in a relationship with someone else who has a Facebook account. That is what Facebook seems to think.

It is easy to pry into other friendships too. I can type in two names from my own relationship page on Facebook and see the joint friendship page.

If there is a photo tagged with both of them, it appears as the page profile image. It looks like they are in a relationship with each other.

But what is worse is that I can use these shared pages to peek into the private conversations between any two of my friends who also happen to know each other.

I can see any ‘Likes’ that they share – and their mutual friends.

zack and mary jo 2
Credit: Facebook

The creepy thing is that I might have missed the original interaction when it occurred. Facebook shows selected updates to your friends depending on who you interact with the most on Facebook.

If the status update from your friend has a lower Edgerank than other items on Facebook, then you won’t see the status update or shared item.

I certainly did not see the birthday wishes between Zack and Mary Jo. Now I wish I had not seen them. I feel like I’m prying, snooping on their private conversation.

Every time you use the '@' symbol to refer to one of your Facebook friends, Facebook stores the relationship connection and logs it to show on your relationship page.

Spookily, it shows male and female (or male male, female female) outlines if it can not find a photograph tagged with both of you.

me and mary jo
Credit: Facebook

It shows how long your friends have been Facebook friends and the ‘Browse Friendships’ box on the right hand side of the page suggests other friendships you can pry into.

Friendship links are even suggested for people who are not your friends on Facebook but who have set their post visibility to public.

This feels wrong.

It feels creepy to watch interactions between my friends like this. If I did not see the original post, and have the chance to join in the conversation why would I want to see it now?

It feels like I am listening in to a conversation overheard in a bar or on a bus. I should not be able to see this.

Yes I know that I have given Facebook permission to show my status updates to my friends. I know that I can see comments on status updates, shared photos and videos. But to see them displayed together on a friendship page seems wrong somehow.

To see old conversations between two of my Facebook friends seems like I am reading a private diary.

How do I escape the Facebook friendship stalker pages? Well, I can stop logging in to Facebook, I can stop updating my status and I can stop ‘Liking’ things. I can remove all of my personal information. I can stop referring to any of my friends by never using the '@' symbol in comments.

I can prevent anyone tagging any images of me, and I can remove any tags from existing photos. I can stop allowing anyone to post to my wall and I can never post to anyone else’s wall. In short, I can stop using Facebook to interact with anyone.

My real friends know the status of my relationships, they know where I am, and what I do with my life.

If you are creeped out by Facebook disclosing information about your significant other, disconnect your Facebook relationship and focus on your ‘real life’ with your real, offline face to face friends.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Privacy

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  • Facebook aand privacy?

    Are you really that dumb?
    • Straight to the point

      A bit harsh perhaps, but you did make me laugh. I guess the truth/reality can be a bit painful at times.
    • Hmm

      I do not believe Eileen is surprised or even upset about the privacy of the information, it's how the information is aggregated and presented to the user. Yes, the information was always there, but never presented so cleanly to anyone to see.
  • Seriously?

    Friendship pages have been around for more than 2 years (https://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=443390892130).
    Yes, they gave it an update last week (http://newsroom.fb.com/News/531/A-New-Look-for-Friendship-Pages), but obviously it hasn't been rolled out for you. The screens you show, the options you talk about, it's old stuff. Those old friendship pages don't overrule any privacy setting. With the privacy settings you have in Facebook you can perfectly set who is allowed to see what and the friendship pages will obey those setting. However, it is said, that the new friendship pages will show a little more. They might show pictures with you and your friend, in which you haven't been tagged. But so far it's something I cant confirm, because the new friendship pages haven't been rolled out for me or anyone I know personally.

    Do your research next time; there are plenty of blogs (techcrunch, mashable) who do give a good view on the new friendship pages.
    Martin Joosse
  • Great Article

    You are so right: disconnect your Facebook relationship and focus on your ‘real life’ with your real, offline face to face friends.

    Facebook is total s--t. I disconnected my account over a year ago and never missed it.

    Facebook is nothing more than a ‘best-of’ or ‘highlights’ compilation reel of people’s lives. The very nature of it breeds narcissism more than any other invention in human history.

    Facebook can, and often does, represent the bare minimum effort one can bother to make to still be 'friends' or have a relationship with someone. No thanks.

    I can't wait for it to just crawl away and die already.
  • lol wut??

    Poorly researched article, one sided bias, sounds like I am reading an article written by a paranoid schizophrenic Luddite. If you people need bloggers hit me up....
    Sierra Boehm
  • Really?

    I know this is an older article but anyone who writes such an article is not a social media consultant or advisor, at least not one for anyone under the age of 75 and I would question that too. It is articles like this from "advisors" that feed into fear mongering and incorrect "information" that can only survive in chains.

    Next you're going to tell me to enter my pin backwards at the atm in case of a mugging, or how facebook is spying on us while we sleep. Both of these "facts" are as useful as the paranoid drivel in this article.
    Jennifer Griffin