TECH
05/19/2010 12:11 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Facebook Community Pages Won't Let You Personalize Your Interests

Facebook's latest round changes to the site have been criticized by users and tech pundits alike for reducing the amount of control people have over their personal information.

Much of the criticism has focused on issues of privacy, with many frustrated by how widely their private data can now be shared.

But Facebook's tweaks have not only made privacy settings more complex and more permissive, they've also diminished users' abilities to customize their likes and interests on the site.

Facebook recently introduced "Community Pages", which require users to combine their pages and interests/activities. For example, if you've listed "cooking" as one of your interests, you'll also be required to join the "cooking" Community Page.

Before, the pages that users were a "fan" of were separate from their interests and "likes." By combining the two, Facebook now prevents users from listing under their interests activities, books, hobbies, movies, or other things they like that do not have a corresponding page.

In other words, users cannot list specific, obscure, or personalized phrases under their interests, but have to put down more generic, "cookie cutter" terms that groups them along with others. The change promises to detract from the individuality of users' Facebook profiles.

Here's an example. Let's say you want to edit the "likes" and interests on your Facebook page to reflect your interest in cooking Japanese food.

If you type in "cooking," you'll see a dropdown list of Community Pages from which you can choose the one you want to join. (see image below)

But if you keep typing, and try to specify that what you really like is "cooking Japanese food," the dropdown list of Community Pages disappears, and you will be unable to select or add "cooking Japanese food" as one of your interests.

Here's what it would have looked like if you'd simply added "cooking" to your interests, and joined the Community Page.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also taken issue with the privacy repercussions of the Community Pages:

The example Facebook uses in its announcement is a page for "Cooking." Previously, you could list "cooking" as an activity you liked on your profile, but your name would not be added to any formal "Cooking" page. (Under the old system, you could become a "fan" of cooking if you wanted). But now, the new Cooking page will publicly display all of the millions of people who list cooking as an activity.

Cooking is not very controversial or privacy-sensitive, and thus makes for a good example from Facebook's perspective. Who would want to conceal their interest in cooking? Of course, the new program will also create public lists for controversial issues, such as an interest in abortion rights, gay marriage, marijuana, tea parties and so on.

What do you think of these tweaks? Do you mind that you won't be able to specify your interests, or are the Community Pages fine with you?


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