Facebook, privacy and media literacy

The new facebook timeline aggregates a lot of previously published data, and this will be a shock for users. The format raises many privacy issues that have been previously buried in the background. 

For example, should birthdays of children be highlighted through the relationship links and tossed on the timeline with large photos? Likewise, should geo-tags on smartphone photos be aggregated into detailed maps that chart your every movement? In the old facebook, such data were more restricted and difficult to bring to the surface. Now, scrolling down on a wall normalizes what most would consider "creeping." I am probably not the only one who thought that it was possible (under the old wall) to selectively use places to check in from public spots. However, it turns out that all photo upload tags were being stored! So, I have now deleted many photos and turned off the location switch on my Facebook phone app. In fact, I have now turned off most of them, which also seems to help with battery life.

A deeper concern may be left to lawmakers and the courts: Has timeline breached accepted notions about boundaries for individual and private data? Facbook's problem here, as my colleague Adam Tyma observed, is that users at first do not opt into sharing all posted information on the timeline. Instead, it is up to each of us to delete and hide what we do not wish to display.

As a facebook user and enthusiast since 2009, I have been in the practice of cleaning posts from my wall over time. But, I still found content needing to be removed.

The up side to the new facebook is that it will force you to learn privacy settings and exercise media literacy skills. We probably should have been better  at this all along, but the old and clunky social media offered a false sense of security. Timeline is very transparent in letting it all hang out there. I do not believe that most people will "tell the story of their lives" on social media. Instead, just as with old media, we will be selective.