Just when you have Facebook’s privacy and app settings figured out, the social network adds more new features that require further management by users. Recently, Facebook has added three big features to its list of capabilities. Two of them add entirely new Facebook feature options — and raise more questions about social privacy. The third gives restaurants extra options when creating their Facebook profiles.
New Facebook Features
Next time you log in, don’t be surprised to see Facebook doing something like the what is described below.
1. Listening to Your Surroundings
This new Facebook feature has gotten some of the most publicity lately, largely due to the invasive vibe it has. The ability is called “music and TV identification” and if you know how recognition apps like Shazam work, then you already have a good idea about what to expect. Turn it on using your smartphone, and it taps into your microphone to pick up the sounds around you. With a little work, it will identify the music or TV show that is playing nearby.
Not only does this allow you to identify a song or show that you may not recognize, but it creates an automatic post that allows you to share with the world what you’re listening to or watching. Leaving aside how interested your friends would be such cookie-cutter posts in the first place, the feature shows a worrying amount of algorithmic surveillance on behalf of Facebook. Users were quick to wonder if the company could tap into their phones and see what they were listening to – or talking about – at any time.
Facebook has promised users that it cannot turn on the feature from afar to listen passively to ALL sounds if users don’t want it on in the first place. No sound information will, for now, be saved, and the app doesn’t try to recognize normal conversations. For those who already like using apps like Shazam (and love talking about pop culture on Facebook) the identification feature may be a handy way to find out the name of some catchy music or boast about watch a live episode of a TV show. But the feature has certainly raised eyebrows and may prove a mile marker in Facebook’s ongoing relationship with user privacy.
2. Asking About Relationships
Another recent feature unveiled by Facebook is uncomfortable…but in a much different way. The new “Ask” button allows people to literally ask friends about their relationship status over Facebook. People who keep that information private can now be sent messages asking for a bit more personal information. If the user responds, only that friend will be able to see their relationship status.
The Ask button includes an option to send a note, which could be either creepy or heartwarming, depending on how it is used. On the positive side, long-lost friends and relatives can ask you for an intimate update of your life. On the negative side, the Ask button conjures up all sorts of stalker-based visions of awkward requests for status updates with a clear wink implied. As with the sound recognition feature, it’s not quite clear how comfortable or enthusiast Facebook users will be with this sort of messaging system until it exists out in the wild for a time.
3. Making it Easier to Order Food
Ending a more friendly change, this new Facebook feature gives you and your friends a hand when making meal decisions. Facebook foregoes the privacy fears this time for an app made thanks to a partnership with the marketing business Constant Contact. It’s actually more of a creation tool than a true app: Using the feature, restaurants can upload menus directly into their Facebook pages, providing a quickly scannable, Facebook-based list of menu items instead of an awkward menu PDF.
So while you may be worried about your phone listening to your entertainment choices, or wince at receiving relationship status requests that are just thinly veiled pick-up lines, at least you can search for your favorite foods more easily with the new Facebook. The future could even seen direct meal ordering through Facebook pages, giving you a time-saving way buy your favorite take-out.