Facebook is finally rolling out Timeline globally, meaning you can join Britney Spears, Tim Tebow, and Mark Zuckerberg in creating a curated look at the span of your life from birth to the present day. You may not have such exciting landmarks as "my first Rolling Stone cover," "my first NFL touchdown," or "my first million," but it is a way to showcase your greatest party pics of all time. Timeline is intended to shift your Facebook profile page from the current “snapshot of you” to something akin to a scrapbook of your entire life. It will surface what it perceives to be your most important Facebook activity (based on likes and comments) from the entirety of your time on the site. That means your account is about to be mined for the juiciest stuff.
Once users activate Timeline, Facebook is giving them at least seven days to curate their Timeline before it goes live. "As you explore your timeline, you may see stories that you want to feature, like your graduation or the day you bought your first car. There might also be stuff that you want to remove or hide from your timeline," writes Facebook engineer Paul McDonald in a blog post explaining how.
This is going to force users to do some privacy housekeeping. Every item on the Timeline will have a little "privacy dropdown box" so you can decide who you want to see it: the world, just friends, just me, etc. Limiting items to just your friends seems like a good privacy control, but that depends on how liberal you've been in friending people. Students in a technology class at Yale have created a nifty little quiz, called What's Her Face-book, to help Facebook users figure out how well they know the people they're connected to on the site. The quiz requests permission to access photos from Facebook and then shows you pictures of a handful of your friends and asks you to identify them, giving you a sense of the percentage of your friends are recognizable ones. I have over 1,200 friends on the site; I took the quiz and got an abysmal score...
The quiz purveyors suggest that I "get unfriendin'," noting that people I apparently don't know have the right to share my information with third party apps. Of course, this is not the first time it's been pointed out that many Facebook users play fast and loose with their 'Friend Request' confirmations; there have been previous studies that have shown that people have a tendency to friend people they don't know, especially if they're good looking or if you share mutual friends (allowing "hotbots" to infiltrate networks and gather 250 GB worth of data about Facebook users in one research study).
If nothing else, the quiz is a fun way to find out how good you are at remembering people's names on the spot.
Many people, when building their networks, weren't thinking about the information that would be exposed years after.
"Make sure whenever you share something, you understand the group you are sharing with, and who comprises that group," say Bay Gross and Charlie Croom, the Yale students who created the quiz.
Facebook continues to change and evolve, and because those changes involve how our personal information is shared with friends and the world, it requires us to change along with it. That means a certain amount of care-taking as the site introduces new features. The Timelines are pretty breath-taking, but will take some of your time to groom. Alternately, you can join the exodus. The New York Times suggests it's not so bad to be a "Facebook resister."