Facebook creeping just got a lot harder...or at least more awkward. Gone are the days where you could simply look at someone's profile to see vitals such as their relationship status and phone number. Now, you have to ask.
In an unannounced update this weekend, Facebook has introduced an "Ask" button to users pages so their friends can ask about their relationship status, where they live, or what their phone number is. (Via Twitter / @wesleyverhoeve)
The feature, which has been rolled out incrementally since January, doesn't allow you to see the button on your own profile. But friends are able to ask about any information you haven't decided to show, so long as they include a note along with the request. (Via Facebook)
As usual with Facebook updates, the change has received less-than-positive reviews.
Asking about peoples' relationship status seems to have taken the bulk of criticism, with a writer at Gizmodo saying: "It's worth noting you can also ask people about their hometown, but that's not nearly as creepy or invasive as the Relationship Status option."
A writer at Business Insider imagined what some of the notes asking about a relationship status would look like:
"'Didn't I hear you got a divorce?'
'Oh, are you and John done???'"
And a writer at Slate noted that Facebook failed to realize one crucial aspect of the button: "Asking someone about their relationship status with no context or warning is incredibly creepy and embarrassing for both parties!"
Relationship inquiries aside, there is still the question on how this button will impact privacy-related issues, which Facebook has had trouble with in the past.
According to a writer at Mashable, answering an "Ask" request makes the information available to Facebook, something she says is useful for marketing: "By answering an 'ask' request, a Facebook member is telling the site their status (even if it's not visible to the public) and in turn, giving the company that personal data."
Ars Technica asked Facebook whether the information would actually be included in targeted advertising and why they added the feature in the first place, but a representative was unable to clarify anything.
Facebook has yet to make any official comment on the feature.