Upon learning that Facebook was changing the user interface to something called “Timeline,” I was a wee bit annoyed, but then again, this is the same site that really ought to strongly consider changing its name to The Social Network that Fixes the Unbroken. Case in point: In the past few years alone, it has continually screwed with privacy settings, and, with each new “fix,” has rendered public by default items (such as contact information) that may have been previously restricted to a limited audience in certain profiles. Indeed, Facebook now practically guarantees that users have even less control of their information more than ever.
Further, all of this is done so that the company can continue to sell user data to unknown third parties for reasons unknown. Well, let’s not be coy here, we know precisely why. Consumer data is a goldmine for marketers, and, now apparently, also to an increasingly invasive federal government. Let me put it to you this way –It is astoundingly naïve and foolish not to know/be concerned that everything said or “liked” on Facebook is being stored indefinitely, whether the account has been deleted or not. But don’t get me started on that, eh? Let’s return to Timeline.
Since this new feature has been foisted upon users regardless of preference, I wanted to at least attempt to give it a fair shake. I tend to disparage anything that is forcibly shoved down my throat, so let’s think of this review as my effort to make lemonade from piss and vinegar, shall we.
The forced usage of Timeline for individuals was set to occur on 28 February, 2012 (30 March is the slated roll-out for pages), but I wanted to give myself the illusion of having some control over the situation, and, so I elected to start using it approximately a week-and-a-half in advance.
Upon first glance, it did not appear to be all that bad. Sure, the wall seemed a lot more cluttered now, and, settings were not located where they previously had been, but let’s base my evaluation on something more substantive, such as privacy settings. Contrary to the entire idea of Facebook, yours truly is one of the very few who has no interest in announcing personal details to the world. I’ll keep every intimate crotch shifting episode and incident of flatulence to myself and confidant, thanks. There is such a thing as too much information, but this fact is lost on the attention whore mentality of Facebook.
With the implementation of Timeline, items such as name, gender, profile image, username, user ID account number, and networks is now public information whether you want it to be or not. Facebook nonchalantly makes mention of this fact, and, then assures you that the reason for this disclosure is of paramount importance –to help you connect with your friends and family! Gasp. Shock. Really?? Essentially, Facebook is telling you in no uncertain terms that it knows better than you do.
Just about the only control you do have in this regard is to modify who can find you in a search. And while this is a nice scrap to toss to those users with privacy concerns, let’s not mistake it for filet mignon. The fact remains that you may limit your profile from a general search, but it is still possible to find it. You’re not invisible so don’t go thinking that you are.
With regard to a particular privacy setting that Facebook seems to be keeping quiet. (I could not find a reference in the Help section) Previously, the user had the ability to set whether likes and comments (recent activity) were shared. This setting has disappeared with Timeline. Now any friends that have “all updates” checked beside your name will get your likes and comments in their news feed whether you want them to or not.
Facebook has effectively taken control of this information away from the user and given it to the user’s friends. This is tantamount to putting blinds on the outside of your windows. The only way around it is to create two user profiles –one for friends and another for other.
I have taken the time to bullet the blue sky (gratuitous U2 reference) with the pros and cons of Timeline referenced below. Some of the features highlighted were previously unavailable. Be advised that it is by no means exhaustive, and, even if it were, it wouldn’t be for very long. Facebook tends to bury settings in a labyrinthine maze of clusterfuck every 3-4 months depending on how much blowback is published, and, with each subsequent change, the negatives always seem to outnumber the positives. But until somebody creates a viable alternative, it will continue to run roughshod over user concerns.
UPDATE: Facebook makes quite the show of announcing that the Activity Log is used to control the visibility of likes & comments. However, the reality is that the user has two very limited choices: (1) Delete the comment/like; or (2) Restrict visibility to himself.
©2012 Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo™. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peyton Farquhar and Prattle On, Boyo with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.