Facebook’s new Timeline, a reverse-chronological profile of your whole history on the social network, will soon roll-out to all users. And most aren’t happy about the presumed privacy implications.
‘Timeline’ – it’s a word that will cause many Facebook users to raise their eyebrows, but what is it?
Facebook’s new Timeline will replace your current profile with a visual calendar of everything you’ve ever done on the site, from your status updates to the photos you’ve uploaded. People will then be able to scroll through ‘your life story’, right back to your Facebook ‘birth’.
The new profile layout is currently voluntary, but ‘in the coming weeks’ it will be made compulsory for all 800 million users. Are you looking forward to your new Facebook Timeline?
Fears about Facebook’s Timeline
A survey of 4,000 Facebook users by security firm Sophos found that only 8% actually liked the new Timeline layout. And 51% were worried by its introduction. Should they have anything to be concerned about? Not necessarily.
The Guardian’s Philip Landau poses the question, ‘What if Facebook Timeline was read instead of your CV?’. The fear is that the new Timeline will make it easier for others, including any prospective employer, to scrape through your whole Facebook history (you’d be surprised by the amount of information people are willing to divulge).
However, this is only true if you haven’t stayed on top of your privacy settings. All of this information was always viewable on your profile, it was simply more difficult to dig into. Your updates won’t suddenly become publicly viewable, as Facebook explains:
‘Timeline doesn’t change any of your existing privacy settings. It will show you all of your posts and activity – from today back to when you first started using Facebook.’
That’s not to say that users’ privacy concerns are unfounded. The fact that status updates now default to the ‘public’ setting could mean that your new Timeline will be full of personal updates for the whole world to see.
To fix this for future updates, make sure you choose ‘friends’ from the click down menu under your status updates. And as for past updates, head in to your profile’s privacy settings, click on ‘Limit the Audience for Past Posts’, ‘Manage Past Post Visibility’ and then ‘Limit Old Posts’. Bingo – all past updates will only be viewable to your friends.
Spend time checking your privacy settings
I voluntarily updated my profile to Facebook’s Timeline. Why? Mainly because I prefer its more visual layout. I also feel that it gives me more control over my historical content, allowing me to delete items I’d prefer weren’t viewable anymore.
However, can Facebook users really be bothered to do this? And should they have to? What if multiple updates are unearthed that you don’t want your Facebook friends to see?
Sadly, my opinion is that if you’re on a social network then you need to spend time managing your privacy settings. Create separate groups for your Facebook friends, where your family, mates and colleagues can see differing amounts of content (you wouldn’t want your mother to see those drunken photos now would you?).
And if you’d like to see what your profile looks like to particular Facebook friends, click the gear icon at the top of your profile, select ‘View As’ and type in their name. You can also see how much content the general public can read too.
So, when Facebook switches on your Timeline, this is a perfect excuse to wade through your privacy settings. Once you’ve perfected them you shouldn’t have to touch them again.