Facebook intros stealth Follow feature

At the end of last week, Facebook made a seemingly small change to its Friend Requests feature - but one that could have far-reaching consequences for your privacy.

Instead of offering users the choice to Confirm or Ignore (that is, deny) a request from a new contact, Facebook has replaced the ‘Ignore’ option with ‘Not Now’.

Clicking the ‘Not Now’ button gives users the option to block any further requests from a given user. If users choose not to block them, would-be friends are relegated to an area known as Hidden Requests, from which they can eventually be further banished by the outright rejection of their friend request.

Why is this important? Because in effect, it turns Friend Requests into a de facto ‘Follow’ feature – something pundits have long expected the social network to introduce as a means of fending off competition from 140-characters-or-less micro-blogging site, Twitter.

All the time that users remain in the ‘Hidden Requests’ limbo, they’re automatically signed up to follow everything in your public news stream.

But then, you didn’t really expect Facebook to up front about changes that affect your privacy. Did you?