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Social website hit with privacy protest

SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook.com, a fast-growing U S social network website has sparked a privacy backlash that has quickly become one of the broadest cyber-protests ever with more than 600,000 members signing an online petition by midday yesterday.

The petition calls for Facebook, which has 9.5 million members, to discontinue a feature -- introduced just two days earlier -- called ``News Feed" that instantly notifies members when friends update their own sites.

Facebook members, most of them from a generation not known for political activism, are complaining of the unintended consequences of making so much personal information available to friends, be it an embarrassing photo or the break up of a relationship.

``News Feed is just too creepy, too stalker-esque, and a feature that has to go," reads the petition of the newly formed ``Students against Facebook News Feed."

``No one likes having their every move watched," said Igor Hiller, 17, of Palo Alto, Calif . ``Me and my friends are just feeling really creeped out. It's Big Brotherish."

Two days earlier, the Palo Alto-based company founded in 2004 by then Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg began automatically notifying users whenever new photos were posted by friends.

``Calm down. Breathe. We hear you," Zuckerberg wrote to users on the Facebook site on Tuesday of the changes. But he said he had no plans to back down.

The Facebook founder added: ``Nothing you do is being broadcast; rather, it is being shared with people who care about what you do -- your friends."

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