Facebook's takedown of privacy option leads to concerns over stalking

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Facebook is in a unique position in American culture. So many family members and friends are posting pictures and updates about their lives that you can feel as if you're cut-off from them if you don't create a profile of your own.

For millions of Facebook users who weren't particularly interested in sharing their profile information with the world, there was a compromise available --- create a profile that's only visible to certain people. But Facebook is taking that option away, saying only a small percentage of its users were taking advantage of it. But with 1.11 billion users around the world, even a small percentage is a lot of people.

It also doesn't take into account those who've been the victim of stalking and don't want to be harassed online, not to mention being tracked-down in the real world.

"I think it is a valid concern," said Dave Hatter, a social media and software guru at Definity Partners. "And in fact, I've done a lot of seminars on social media talking to people about how to use it and so forth. And I've had two different women in two different seminars tell me they have been stalked as a result of social media. One in particular was related to Facebook and one wasn't."

Facebook did not respond to FOX19's e-mail asking why it's making the move.

From Facebook's perspective, the more information about you that's public, the more details about you it can sell to advertisers and data mining companies. But Hatter says Facebook needs to be careful.

"I think Facebook definitely has their work cut-out for them to stay relevant," he said. "And I think by attempting to maximize their profit, which again is just me trying to guess at why they are making these kind of changes, I think they are going to ultimately erode their user base because people are just going to say, 'Enough is enough of this. I don't like the way this works.'"

In fact, Hatter agrees with recent articles saying that Twitter and LinkedIn could eventually surpass Facebook in popularity. Hatter points-out that a lot of businesspeople are already on LinkedIn making deals with each other.

For now, though, Facebook is the most popular social media site in the world. And it's clearly making a profit. But if users grow concerned about their privacy, those figures could erode, as Hatter suggests. There's already talk that it's not as popular as it once was with American teens.