(image credit Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty)
San Francisco, CA (written by Nick Foley/USA Today) -- Facebook has done it again - alienated some of its 900 million members by making unannounced changes to the social network.
The latest kerfuffle is over Facebook's decision to replace the personal e-mail addresses on a user's profile page with an @facebook.com e-mail address.
And it coincided with a decision Monday by Facebook to halt testing - at least temporarily - of a feature called Find Friends Nearby, a location service that identifies other Facebook users in the vicinity. Meredith Chin, Facebook's manager of product communications, said that no launch date has been set.
The makers of a similar app, Friendthem, has accused Facebook of stealing its idea.
Facebook has come under fire from users before, most noticeably in 2009 after it secretly altered members' privacy settings. That move led to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and an order requiring the company to submit to 20 years of monitoring related to its privacy practices.
It's not clear whether privacy issues were involved in the recent changes. Facebook says it notified users of the social-networking site - at the top of their home pages - that they would be assigned Facebook e-mail addresses. However, the company did not explain that all other e-mail addresses would be hidden and replaced by an unfamiliar address generated by Facebook.
"That was just a choice that we made," says Chin. "If there continues to be confusion, we may add a ... notification in some way."
The company says it made the change to streamline communication between users. Chin says the default @facebook.com address allows users to keep their other e-mail addresses private, if they so desire. "But they can choose to show them."
Bethesda, Md., resident Nick Sevilla, 21, said he was surprised to find out an e-mail account had been created for him without his knowledge. "I definitely would have liked to have been alerted."
Facebook users who want to restore their original e-mail addresses can do so by going to "Contact Info" and clicking "Edit."
You'll be able to choose which e-mail addresses you would like to make public, as well as with whom you prefer to share them.
One up-side to the @facebook.com email address: your private email address will remain hidden from marketers, spammers, and anyone else you don't want to have your private email address.
Contributing: Derry London in Columbia, SC