There was a comment by Julia Angwin in the Wall Street Journal about how Facebook may make “friending” obsolete through its policy of making your friend list public. At first, a couple of days ago when I learned that my friend list was irretrievably public, I had thought of just unfriending everyone in order to hide them in the future, but that’s “cutting of my nose to spite my face” as Mom would have said. I’d have to bring them all back when Facebook changes its policy (which it certainly will have to in the future). So I haven’t done it (yet).
But anyway it’s too late. Whatever harm has been done has probably been scarfed up by the scurrying search engines which have picked up this valuable information while it has been available. What if some unscrupulous operator has already built a private search engine that has traversed Facebook pages and sucked up all of the relationships while they were public. Even if Facebook hides them later on, any such information could be preserved and used by unscrupulous individuals. (And in case you think you can’t build a search engine in a few hours, I built a search engine in 1999 that spiders, on my behalf, any site I point it at… and I could easily configure it to spider Facebook for this kind of information, and have it running on the task within an hour.)
Julia says that Facebook has added the option to protect your friend list (must have happened while I was sleeping). But I can’t find it. I did find a place to restrict what Facebook shows to the search engines, but searchers have ways around that. And there’s an interesting, long post that I found in Valleywag, that deals with some of the intricacies of making your information more difficult to find. It’s worth reading.