Facebook announces new open membership policy

by Kathryn Nelson

Facebook will loosen its user registration requirements, allowing even parents to give their kids a “poke.”

The social networking Web site, which boasts 9 million users, announced Tuesday that anyone with a valid e-mail address will have access to the site.

Facebook officials did not provide a date for when the change would occur.

This announcement comes a week after the addition of a news feed and a mini-feed feature that time-stamps user activities, allowing friends to see one another’s activity within the site.

Both additions received backlash from thousands of Facebook users.

The company’s self-proclaimed “mess-up” did not deter the announcement of new changes. A privacy statement, provided to all users Tuesday, detailed the new policy.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, said in the statement that people will be able to register for one of 500 geographic regions “so that all of our members are a part of a smaller network.”

Similar social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster were created to allow anyone with an e-mail address to create a profile.

Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety, an organization that educates students, parents and teens about online safety, said harassment, identity theft and sexual predators are problems users of social networking sites face.

Aftab said the new criteria for registration won’t change who can see your personal information.

“Users of Facebook need to recognize that they are sharing a lot of information and not always with the co-ed down the hall,” Aftab said.

If the new users are not affiliated with the University, they will not be able to access a student’s full profile without permission from the student.

WiredSafety has worked with Facebook in the past. Aftab said the Facebook employees genuinely care about their clients, but the Web site needs to “spend more time listening to their users.”

Ryan Robinson, a political

science sophomore, said he disliked the news feed added last week.

He said the new Facebook registration requirements will “make stalking so much easier.”

After the new changes take effect, Robinson said he will not use the Web site as often.

Robinson’s father, Fred Robinson, said he will be creating a Facebook account as soon as he can.

“I work for IBM and social networking is something that businesses are going to adopt,” he said.

Fred Robinson said he will add his son, as well as his son’s friends, to his list of friends so he can see what’s happening in their lives.

“That will be the primary benefit,” Fred Robinson said.