The recent changes at Facebook, an online (formerly) student social network, are, in a word, disturbing.

According to Reuters, Facebook, the No. 2 U.S. social network (right behind MySpace), received an online petition from 500,000 members of its 9.5 million membership last month asking that the recently introduced "News Feed" feature be removed. The "News Feed" basically lets users know what other users in their network are doing on their Facebook accounts, in real time.

The petition states, "News Feed is just too creepy, too stalker-esque, and a feature that has to go."

Facebook mastermind Mark Zuckerburg, who created Facebook in 2004 while attending Harvard, responded, "We agree, stalking isn't cool; but being able to know what's going on in your friends' lives is." Great. Now stalkers can call their victims "friends."

Let's try an example. Just by looking at Kenna's page (above), I not only learn that Kenna added photos to her account, but I know how many she posted and the day and time she posted them. I know when she's communicated to her other friends. I also learn that Kenna is dating someone new and, by looking at the photo, see that the guy looks strangely like -- me. (It's NOT me, for the record.)

I hardly use Facebook at all anymore because I'm so turned off by these creepy features. I did join a new group though. It's called "Facebook... aka STALKERbook." The description of this group reads, "If this new 'news feed' has you feeling like every friend (or lack there of) can watch your Facebook-moves, and it fucking creeps you out, then we all have something in common." Count me in.

Facebook originally had some feeling of privacy, primarily because only people with college email addresses could register for accounts or access member pages. Some months ago, Facebook began allowing high schoolers, non-profits and military organizations to register for accounts. Now, anyone can ask to be "one of your friends" as Facebook has opened itself up to the general public -- making the "News Feed" feature that much more concerning, and giving reason to drop the "STALKERbook" membership.