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Facebook read receipts
Receipts: in your Groups, but not in your News Feed
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Say goodbye to lurking, snooping and curtain twitching, at least online: according to The Independent, Facebook's going to start letting everybody in your social network see exactly what you've been looking at - so if you've been spending far too long, ahem, examining those beach photos of your ex, your best friend's partner or a giant moose, everybody's going to know about it.

The Independent doesn't quite put it that way - it says that "the naughty-naughty-stalky-stalky generation may soon see their fingerprint-free snooping habits curtailed" - but it's clear that "the end is nigh for anonymous stalking" on the service.

Oh no it isn't.

I'm the first to point the pointy finger of pointing at Facebook whenever it does something bad, which is pretty often, but in this case the Indy's taken a story and stuck a made-up story on top of it.

Facebook might be evil, but I don't think it's stupid.

Mostly harmless

Here's what Facebook is doing, as brilliantly described by Kate Solomon: it's adding "largely unnecessary group read-receipts" so "whenever you visit a Facebook group you can see exactly who has seen each post". That's it. It's an extension of the read receipts you already get in Facebook Messenger, and that you've had in emails since 1922.

Could the same features come to your News Feed? They could, and that's the Indy's take on it: "already there are suggestions that Facebook may unfurl the technology across the site". But there's a big difference between could and will, and I'll be amazed if Facebook jumps from the former to the latter - not because of the privacy implications, but because of the pageviews.

Facebook is all about ads, and those ads are all about keeping people on the site as much as possible - and I reckon read receipts on the News Feed is a sure-fire way to get people to spend less time on the network, not more.

I don't just mean because you'll be caught if you're stalking your ex. I mean because in the wrong hands, read notifications would make Facebook unusable. Imagine if the people in your network who post way too often, post too much stuff or post too much information - the people whose posts you've relegated to "important only", if you haven't shuffled them off to Siberia by sticking them in lists you never look at - could see exactly who didn't give a monkeys about their posts, and could see exactly how little of a monkeys people gave. It'd be carnage.

Facebook networks require a certain amount of fibbing, whether that's accepting people as friends you're not too fussed about or quietly hiding somebody's posts instead of freaking out and telling them what you think of them, their job, their children and their haircut.

From privacy settings to terrible mobile apps, Facebook has proved that it can survive all kinds of things - but just like real-life relationships, I'm not convinced it could survive total transparency.


Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Carrie Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," she says. "And there's a lot of crap."