We are born, we live, we die – and now we can do it all on Facebook. The social network recently rolled out Timeline, a dramatic update to its profile pages that lists everything you have ever done on the site in reverse order, right back to your very first post. You can even recreate your past, posting “status updates” to fill out your Timeline from birth.
This is more than just a design upgrade. Timeline is going to change the way we use Facebook, especially when it comes to viewing other people’s profiles. “People will be doing more digging, just because that’s human nature,” says Rik Ferguson, a security researcher at Trend Micro in Marlow, UK. We can expect a split between those who share information from before they joined Facebook and those who don’t. “I haven’t uploaded any past activity and I have no intention of doing it,” says Ferguson. “There’s another generation of Facebook users who are quite happy to have large amounts of their past and present stored online and shared with their community of friends.”
Facebook would love to have everyone fill in their past, of course, as it provides yet another set of data that advertisers can exploit. But uploading our entire lives could have more long-term consequences than a few targeted ads.
Many parents already use Facebook as the modern equivalent of the family photo album, sharing pictures of their newborn babies and chronicling their children’s lives. If and when those children eventually join Facebook themselves, their accounts will already have their entire history since birth.
“It’s time to adapt what we do in the offline world to the online world,” says Chris Atkinson, a child internet safety advisor based in London. She says that just as people gradually give their children more independence when walking to school or meeting friends, parents should give their children more ownership over what they post online over time.
One possibility would be for Facebook to offer special accounts for children that gradually phase out adult control, similar to the age-appropriate parental settings offered by internet service provider AOL. At the moment you must be over 13 to sign up for a Facebook account, but Atkinson says parents often help younger children sign up without considering the implications.
As with any change on Facebook, there are new privacy concerns. While past status updates were always accessible for those dedicated enough to find them, Timeline makes everything accessible with a few clicks. This is why Facebook gives users who activate their Timeline a one-week period to modify records of past events before it’s available to view on the net, buying time to hide any embarrassing moments. It is also possible to make your entire Timeline “friends only”, hiding any older updates that might otherwise be available to the world.
With Timeline it is clear that old information can easily resurface and while Facebook offers you tools to hide it that may not always be the case. “Once you have shared any information online, even with a restricted audience, you need to consider that as being in the public domain,” says Ferguson. “Although you may be able to control which members of your social circle can see that information, you can’t control what they do with it.”
Via New Scientist
Credit to Jacob Aron