Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

Summary: The Facebook Timeline feature is rolling out across the world but not everyone is happy about it. Do you really trust Facebook to keep your private activities off your public timeline?

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The Facebook Timeline feature is rolling out across the world, but not everybody is happy about it.

Finnish newspaper YLE Uutiset reports that Facebook appears to be publishing users private messages. Users can see private messages posted to users on their public profile and displayed on their timeline.

Facebook said the report is erroneous. A Facebook spokesperson said:

A small number of users raised concerns after what they believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline. Our engineers investigated these reports and found that the messages were older wall posts that had always been visible on the users' profile pages. Facebook is satisfied that there has been no breach of user privacy.

Users commented on social media channels on Sunday evening that not only public messages are visible, but also apparently private messages are on display on users' timelines.

(Source: Facebook)

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly which messages are affected by the new level of privacy -- or lack of it.

Facebook added conversations using chat instant messages to inbox messages in November 2010.  Facebook called this the 'social inbox' to allow messages to be delivered to any device. Wall comments appear in your inbox and on your timeline. Wall comments from friends now appear on your timeline as public posts.

Public or Private?

For some users, messages are on display from when the users joined Facebook; while on other timelines show photos and wall posts. Facebook have changed their privacy settings several times over the last few years.

If you don't regularly visit your privacy settings, you could be sharing more than you thought you were.

The timeline is being rolled out now and should be available to all Facebook users next week. Earlier this year, concerns were raised over the ability to 'stalk' Facebook users by viewing their activity on their timeline. Facebook also announced that status messages photos would be made public by default to users with profile and status updates set to 'Everyone'.

Conversations between two people are shown as discussions. However, people who are not engaged in the discussion can still see the conversation. It is unclear which messages are displayed on the public timeline, which is available to anyone and which messages are visible only to friends.

I looked at a couple of timelines, one from an existing connection in Facebook and one from someone I am not connected to. I added my ZDNet colleague Zack Whittaker as a friend on Facebook in 2010. When I look at his profile, I can see the status updates that he posted to Facebook before we became connected on Facebook.

When I 'unfriended' Zack I could see nothing on his timeline. Zack has been hiding updates from his timeline since he became aware of the privacy issue. However, another contact who is not my friend on Facebook has a completely different timeline view. I can see photos and links, comments and status updates.

Reclaiming your privacy

If you find that this has happened, it is possible to hide posts from your own Facebook timeline. To do this, go to each post on your timeline and choose the 'Hide from timeline' feature. This is really time consuming if there are a lot of published posts on Facebook.

You can also use the 'Hide from timeline' feature on the Activity Log section on your Timeline. Changing individual posts like this is impractical, and without the assistance of a script or macros, can also take a long time.

Can you really trust Facebook to keep your private information private? Perhaps deactivating your Facebook account might be the only way that you can really feel secure about your personal information...

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Topic: Social Enterprise

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23 comments
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  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    Yep. In anticipation of timelines, i deactivated my account and waited the 14 days for deletion and started over. Much easier.
    mike2k
    • A similar tact

      I took a similar approach, except for the whole starting over part.
      Carl.Lee4@...
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    Timeline sucks as far as I have seen. Design is TERRIBLE, graphically, and now the privacy issue is the killing blow. Facebook might be history for me ... Google+ instead.
    pdowns
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    I keep my privacy settings set to friends only. I check them regularly to be sure nothing has changed. I feel this is my responsibility if I choose to use FB. The question I have is, why would anyone post something to FB if they do not want people who are their friends to see it? If I have accepted someone as my friend, then I acknowledge that I am allowing them to see whatever is posted. If you do not want someone to see your posts, then you probably shouldn't be FB friends with them in the first place. It bothers me that people seem to place a lot or responsibility on FB for what is being shown to others rather than accept responsibility for themselves. A user should take responsibility and be diligent about their security settings, regardless of the application.
    Ms_Bee
    • Generally agree.

      @Ms_Bee

      My biggest complaint is that FB changes how the privacy settings work, which will reset or make them work differently, with little or no notification. When these changes are made, then these settings are compromised until discovered.
      linux for me
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    I have also deactivated my profile, I will not be returning..... Mark Z needs to have his life impacted by the horrors his application has created. FB was started as something better than myspace and it truly was. Now it has become a monster that wants more and more of your information and its a false sense of security. Sadly many under 30 have no idea what the world was like before cell phone, email so the concept of privacy is something they do not understand. Those are the same people who are constantly being ripped off because 4 corners says they are not at home, their ID is stolen because they freely give out too much information or do not take security as serious as they should.
    guitarest
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    I'm giving Facebook a week after the public rollout of Timeline to sort out the privacy issues. Otherwise I'm deleting (and knowing how that company is run they probably don't care what their users think)
    omar.chatah
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    @Ms_Bee Your post speaks volumes. Check your own settings and why on earth would anyone post something they wouldn't expect others they possibly don't know to see? It's perplexing to me also why everyone wants to go to Google+ after Google has time and time again jeopardized security and privacy though several of their products. If things like the Buzz debacle and the Android Store with their "upload any virus unchecked" motto is any indication, privacy will be more jeopardized with them than even Facebook.
    mlbslugger
    • Your hatred of all things Google is showing.....

      @mlbslugger

      Let's see you develop a social application and see if you get it right the first time......Then we can drag you through the flames because you got something wrong. Glass houses and all that.
      linux for me
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    I still don't get it if your so concerned about the privacy of something, why put it on the internet in the first place.
    paulj_edm
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    What privacy issues? As far as I can tell, the only evidence this article provides of privacy issues with the timeline feature is a reference to a finnish newspaper report of people claiming private posts were made public. It then goes on to say that facebook engineers have investigated, and that the posts were in fact always public. I'm inclined to believe the facebook engineers on this one as, in my experience, most people don't understand how the facebook privacy controls actually work.

    It seems to me that this whole thing is just another case of people freaking out when facebook changes something, not because there's actually a problem with it, but because they simply don't understand it. This article only serves to inflame the issue without providing any real evidence of a problem.
    mog77
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    Facewhat?
    draku.zeos
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    I love the timeline version. It is clean, simple and I'm not worried about a privacy issue. If you're so worried about privacy, don't post it on Facebook in the 1st place. Or, better yet, just don't join a "social" network at all. I mean really...privacy is certainly up to the user and no one else.
    DiabolicalMadness
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    I love the timeline version. It is clean, simple and I'm not worried about a privacy issue. If you're so worried about privacy, don't post it on Facebook in the 1st place. Or, better yet, just don't join a "social" network at all. I mean really...privacy is certainly up to the user and no one else.
    DiabolicalMadness
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    Why would you put private information on the internet if you want noone to see it? That is your problem, not facebook's. I love the new timeline, it is really cool looking. Everytime they make a change, people threaten to leave. Facebook still has MILLIONS of users. I doubt it is going anywhere anytime soon, even if some do leave over this change. A change happens every single year on FB, why is everyone so surprised about it? If you don't like it, leave. Why waste your time whining and complaining about it?
    Grumpy Bugger
  • I don't get people

    I don't get how people complain so much about Facebook privacy. You choose what you want to be public or not, and no new information is shown now that wasn't before. The changes that Timeline has brought are almost purely cosmetic (with the exception of being able to add life events, and the like), privacy settings have not changed at all, it was always possible to view posts that had been posted right back until when the person joined Facebook.

    Honestly, to me it seems whenever Facebook does something, everyone instantly thinks "They must have lowered privacy" without even looking at what was actually changed.
    Jason Frost
  • Good & Bad: Timeline has privacy issues that need 2B fixed and streamlined

    Here are some things good and bad that I have found out over the switch to Timeline.

    BAD: You know all the pics you have that you altered your security settings to "only me" or "specific friends only" etc? Well now, they appear on the time line on your wall for EVERYONE TO SEE! Yes, despite your privacy settings, so now what? We have two places to monitor our privacy now? >.

    You have to go into "Activity" button (new button) on the timeline and click on every bloody photo you've ever loaded (for me this was 3 yrs I had to go back as some of my friends or family may not want their photos displayed) and click "hide from timeline" on each bloody picture! There is no "hide album from Timeline." This goes for all your posts, etc. The only other option is to customize where only your friends can see or specific users, but a lot of my friends are for games only. There needs to be another option.

    GOOD: One thing I do like about it is FB games like FV, all your truffles are in one group and it appears all your beggar boxes (I need this...) appear in one group so it is easier to find things and help people.

    GOOD: Another good thing though about the change is it also 'appears' you can type more text in a text box. With the old one there was a minimum and this time I think either the minimum has changed or there is no set minimum. I'm still looking into it. This only applies to the first post and not the comments under them of course.
    selah117
  • Just like discussing nude beaches...

    As i read somewhere... <br><br>"Arguing which Social networking site has better Privacy is like arguing which Nude Beach is less Nude.... "<br><br>
    harikrismg
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    Thanks for your post Eileen - I think the privacy and sharing issue is certainly the most contentious issue that people are talking about in regards to Timeline.
    There are some features that I like - such as the cover photo and I do actually quite like the design, but I also think that the layout is voyeuristic and like you say, time consuming and inpractical if you were to change all the settings. There are also very personal additions you can make to it - such as including your first kiss or a break up (on life events) !
    Do you think people will be less encouraged to use facebook as a result? We discussed some of the pros and cons of the features too http://ow.ly/88HS1
    Lindsay - 3seven9
  • RE: Facebook Timeline privacy concerns deepen as rollout begins

    if you just want to disable timelines from a viewing point of you, i.e when you view your timeline page, it will actually display as an old style linear profile page, theres an easy solution available that actually works, check it out here: http://fbpurity.com/disable-facebook-timeline.htm
    misterzee