Facebook's Timeline user interface is raising eyebrows and heart rates from media and pundits who fear the social network is becoming a little too revealing.
Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Executive
Chairman Eric Schmidt took a lot of flak from the media for a comment he made at
an event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., last October.
responding to a question about the possibility of Google developing some kind
of neurological implant, replied
: "Google's policy is to get right up
to the creepy line and not cross it."
If that comment seemed
sketchy then, it's downright damning now, taken out of context and repurposed
by Google's detractors, as FairSearch.org did ahead of the Senate's antitrust
hearing versus the company Sept. 21.
Google isn't the only one to
toe the creepy line. Facebook, with its new Timeline user interface, has joined
the creepy-line party. Timeline,
which packages users' personal histories online
on one easily accessible
Web page to facilitate easier information sharing, is drawing creepy calls from
media and industry pundits. It's a rabble rousing that hasn't been seen since
Facebook's Beacon ad experiment, which ended in a lawsuit settlement.
co-founder Chris Saad was quick to point out:
"Using all the bling
of the Timeline, along with new messaging and a simple little opt-in toggle of
'add to my timeline' they managed to re-launch 'Beacon' without anyone
Yet people in the
blogosphere did notice how up close and personal Facebook's Timeline gets.
Facebook used to be about letting users easily share what's going on with them
on a contemporary basis.
The social network's 800
million members assumed that when they logged in and began populating status
updates, photos and videos it was from only that point going forward.
Timeline affords users the
opportunity to catalog their life history, from birth to present day, in
digital form and make it easily accessible to users' friends.
"People will be scared
at first because they're going to say: 'Oh, my God, they're trying to track
everything I do.'" Altimeter Group analyst Charlene Li told eWEEK.
"People in the end are going
to love it because it's going to make it so much easier to share info you want
And Facebook will love this
because it means it can better hone its social ad algorithms. But it's made
some people uncomfortable.
4 News' Benjamin Cohen correctly noted
It seems like too much
information about me for people to be able to discover. While it's been
possible for people to access my photographs from years ago, in a sense they
were out of context. Now you can see context because of the posts I made myself
and those made by my friends on my wall. Once the service goes public, I'll be
Werdmuller, CTO for high-speed video transfer player Lakatoo, chimed in
It's a contextual
identity: something you won't get from a real name, a passport, an ID card or
even a DNA profile. Whereas previously profiles were a collection of
hand-picked pieces of information coupled with some things you'd shared
recently, now you'll see wedding photos, pictures of drunken nights on the town
four years ago, and perhaps a status update you made when you were hurt and
upset after something you've long forgotten that happened in 2006-mixed up with
more professional status updates and links, of course.
And that's a major dilemma
users are facing as Facebook prepares for its worldwide launch of Timeline.
Users can control what they do now and act in a professional, appropriate
But users can't change the
past, which could make for some painful posts on the Website. Of course,
Timeline offers granular privacy controls; users will have to scroll through
their posts and manually hide or delete them one by one.
"On one level, it's
brilliant," Werdmuller continued. "On another, it's undeniably,
pervasively creepy, to a level we've hitherto been unprepared for in human
society. These things are designed to be forgotten, but with the Facebook
Timeline, much of your life is all but indelible, published front and center
until you go through each item individually and hide or delete it."
As consumers, manual hiding
or deletion are your options. Or, you can opt out of Facebook altogether, the
digital social equivalent of falling on the sword, sayonara.
Search and publishing expert
John Battelle had some advice for publishers or simply folks with brands they'd
like to earn money from: Steer clear of Facebook and its Timeline, as the money
Facebook makes from your data will not be passed along to you.
: "Don't invest your time, or your narrative exertions, building
your stories on top of the Facebook platform. Make them elsewhere, and then,
sure, import them in if that's what works for you. But individual stories, and
brand stories, should be born and nurtured out in the Independent Web."