Facebook recently began rolling out its Timeline feature, which will replace the social networking site’s traditional user profile.
Everything ever posted on a user’s page will be included in Timeline.
Members have seven days to review everything that appears on their Timelines before anyone else can see them, and Facebook lets them mark which items they want to keep private.
However, the feature has raised concerns that it might breach users’ privacy because Facebook will upgrade everyone to Timeline — whether or not they opt for it.
“Your privacy setting with Timeline will carry over,” Facebook spokesperson Victoria Cassady told TechNewsWorld. “If you posted a picture in 2006 to all of your friends except one, that person still won’t be able to see the picture, even if it appears on your Timeline.”
How Timeline Works
Everything you have posted so far on Facebook will appear in your Timeline. The highlights will be expanded and the rest summarized, but you can expand any of the minor items at will and feature them prominently.
To feature items on your Timeline, roll over them and click the star on your screen to expand them to two columns.
If there’s something you want to hide, delete or edit, click the pencil icon on your screen and proceed.
You can see how your Timeline appears to others by clicking the gear menu at the top of the Timeline and selecting “View As.”
Two dropdown menus on a new tool called the “Activity Log” let Facebook members indicate whether posts should be kept private, and whether they should appear on their Timelines.
The Activity Log lets members review all their posts and activity back to the day they first signed up for Facebook. An account’s activity log is only visible to its owner.
Mobile device users can access Timeline if their devices run Android 1.8.1, or by accessing m.facebook.com.
Facebook Steamrolls On
All users will eventually have to upgrade to Timeline whether they want to or not. That has aroused the ire of consumer advocacy groups, including Consumer Watchdog and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“I haven’t tried the Timeline features yet; I’ve only read about it. But I think this is a breach of users’ privacy,” John Simpson, director of the privacy project at Consumer Watchdog, told TechNewsWorld.
“This is a substantial change in how my information is used,” Simpson continued. “It should be offered only on an opt-in basis.”
This refers back to an agreement Facebook recently made to settle charges from the United States Federal Trade Commission that it deceived consumers about privacy.
That settlement requires, among other things, that Facebook get consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data.
Timeline appears to be a “substantial breach” of Facebook’s settlement with the FTC, Simpson said. However, he pointed out that the settlement has not yet been entered in final form.
The FTC did not respond to requests to comment for this story.
Free to Choose
Facebook should offer Timeline on a strict opt-in basis, Consumer Watchdog’s Simpson suggested. It’s a “completely new, potentially privacy-invasive feature,” he added.
However, “You have no expectation of privacy because that information is already out there on Facebook, and if Facebook wants to change how things are being displayed, that’s not an issue,” Yasha Heidari, managing partner of the Heidari Power Law Group, pointed out.
“The only issue is if Facebook takes what’s private and displays it to the public,” Heidari added. “People might not be happy with [Timeline], and that’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean it’s illegal or a breach of the law.”