The feature that has sparked controversy transmits public Facebook information, such as name, profile, picture, gender and friends, to help its partners Yelp, Pandora and Docs.com tailor their sites to your tastes. Facebook automatically turned on the feature for all users, but gave them the opportunity to turn it off, both on Facebook and on the partner sites.
"That's Facebook's modus operandi: They make a change. They tell people how to opt out. They gamble on the fact that many people don't pay attention to or care about Facebook's end game," EMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. "Facebook is pushing toward a future where they hope there will be fewer controls people want to put on their privacy."
In 2007 Facebook users revolted against Beacon, a tool that broadcast their activities and purchases on dozens of websites. Facebook responded by giving people the ability to opt out of the controversial program before scrapping it.
Jen Singer, a 43-year-old parenting blogger from Kinnelon, N.J., and avid Facebook user, hasn't made up her mind about Facebook's new feature. For now she has turned it off.
"I don't want to be signed up for something that I don't know what it is," Singer said. "Facebook should not automatically sign me up."
Studies show most Americans think websites already collect too much information about them. Even some young users who tend to share information more freely are becoming more cautious.
Diane Keng, an 18-year-old high school senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif., who runs a start-up called MyWeboo that helps users manage their data on social media, said most teenagers and college students are "oblivious" to what she sees as a steady erosion of online privacy.
"I personally don't like it," Keng said. "This is our information we are entrusting to Facebook."