Facebook’s new Ticker and Timeline features have caused more than the usual kerfuffle that surrounds a Facebook update. That’s because it so obviously threatens the privacy that users still want to control. Ticker means that Facebook will be able to integrate and record just short of absolutely everything everyone does online, while Timeline means it will be saved until your bones turn to dust. And it turns out not everyone wants that.
The argument that Mark Zuckerberg puts across – unbiased of course – is that Facebook should represent your true self, reflect your values and your personality. And what’s wrong with that? “Just look at the early days of anonymity on the internet,” Mr Z smiles in his cool ten-dollar t-shirt and jeans. “It was a Wild West of despicable, enflaming vitriol vomited from faceless sociopaths who laughed safe in the knowledge they could get away with almost anything. Just look at it. You’re embarrassed now aren’t you?”
And yet we are still here. Still using the internet and still enjoying the intimacy privacy and anonymity brings.
The thing is people really value their privacy. A-list celebrities would give their adopted African child just to have the right to a private life. Unsurprisingly, many of us ‘norms’ are similarly – and rightfully so – inclined. No one wants Facebook to know that they’re searching for ‘venereal disease’ on Google.
Even the aspects of your life that you’re willing to share with friends and family, these aren’t always what you want Geoff from Accounting perusing. In fact especially Geoff from Accounting. And the thought of sharing the kind of anecdotes welcome among friends with your boss is horrific.
To this day I haven’t ‘Liked’ anything on Facebook. That’s not because of a macabre psychopathic disposition that I want to keep hidden from the world. It’s because what I may find harmless, humourous, even interesting could be disagreeable, distasteful or even offensive to others. I also reserve the right to change my mind about such things, without having to notify Facebook about my change in loyalties. But it’s already too late, you’ve already been judged.
Concerns about privacy aside, greater social integration is a great idea. Peer sharing is an enjoyable and satisfying experience offline or online and extending the process beyond recommendations and Facebook’s walls to other parts of the web adds a new dimension. Facebook does, however, need to be absolutely clear how these shares will be displayed and who exactly they will be available to. If it doesn’t the ‘Open Graph’ may begin closing doors as users become increasingly conscious of what they’re sharing and who with.