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This article was published on September 25, 2011

Facebook’s Eerie Goal: Why Timeline Changes Everything

Facebook’s Eerie Goal: Why Timeline Changes Everything

For those out of the loop, Facebook just introduced the Timeline at its recent F8 Conference. Besides the obvious changes in aesthetics thanks to the Sofa acquisition, Timeline alters everything from the purpose of the Facebook profile, to the way Facebook is pushing users to rethink their own privacy.

TechCrunch recently published an article about Why The Timeline Changes Nothing. Well, they’re wrong. The timeline changes everything.

What’s Changed:

Enter Timeline: Your Facebook profile is now a landing page, quickly displaying what’s important in a way that compromises‘s purpose. But dig deeper and you’ll see how it’s a hyper-accurate depiction of your life.

Timeline also marks a change in the way Facebook rolls out redesigns. During the F8 presentation, the Timeline was gently compared to the act of scrapbooking; a safe way of encouraging users to share more details more frequently. By introducing Timeline as a “feature” instead of what it really is (the biggest online collection of your personal data to date), Zuckerburg essentially dodged a bullet. Facebook is easing users into a radically different experience.

An Eerie Goal?

The most important change, in my opinion, is how Timeline is a major step towards Zuckerburg’s vision: highly public information. His thoughts on privacy have led to backlash in the past, but this time he’s gotten off scot-free (so far).

For older users, information that was previously buried in the past is now easily accessible and stalker friendly. But for the parents who created a profile for their newborn baby (yes, that really happens), the Timeline reflects a paradigm shift in the way our lives are being shared with the rest of the world.

Now babies, born with a Facebook account, have a life-long timeline of every major event that happened throughout their lives. Our children will eventually take hold of their accounts when they’re old enough, and continue the Facebook cycle. This major change could safeguard Facebook from ever going the way of Myspace, all while creating a Skynet-like catalog of user information that makes Google look like it really does follow its “don’t be evil” motto.

Let’s take this even further. Facebook is on it’s way to becoming the largest index of people that has ever existed. Its database has over 800 million active users, and may carry more detailed information than any public government census has had in the history of mankind (the US and China, for example, publicly gather ethnicity, employment, income and home address, not daily food consumption, music taste, location check-ins, etc). Facebook is also borderless, with more than 75% of users located outside the US.

Imagining Dystopia For A Moment…

Facebook is already using face recognition technology, and its privacy policy is longer than the US Constitution. If I continue to use its newest sharing features, Facebook will eventually have access to my diet, my exercise habits, my love life, my family life, my media consumption and every place I’ve publicly been. Best of all: this wonderful information will finally be at the fingertips of major corporations. For example:

“Do you remember Huggies Diapers? We know you used them as a kid. Here’s a photograph to prove it. Why not buy some for your 1 year old, Charlie (29″ and 22 lbs)?”

Back to reality

The above imagines the worst case scenario. Exaggerations aside, I am concerned with Facebook’s direction. These changes are causing me to reconsider my Facebook account, because I don’t believe this level of life-tracking is a good thing. Of course, this is all my own opinion. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on why these changes are (or aren’t) beneficial for users in the long run

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