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How to Keep your Privacy with the Facebook Timeline Updates

Facebook’s new updates have caused considerable annoyance with many about individual privacy. Find out how to keep what you want private on Facebook now.

The power of websites such as Facebook and Google to know what we do online; where we spend our money and what we like to do when we are away from our computer screens is phenomenal.

Every website you visit, every comment you leave on someone’s wall and every brand you like on Facebook presents companies with a vast amount of data that they can use to target you with more specific adverts and offers.

It is data-capture in gigantic proportions that advertisers and market research experts could only dream about accessing in the pre-internet age.

With so much information about what we do then, naturally the issue of privacy comes up. If you haven’t been on Facebook for a couple of weeks, then you wouldn’t have noticed that the website has had an overhaul (again!). Regular Facebook users cannot have failed to miss the changes. New features have been added, including a Facebook ‘Timeline.’

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Facebook Timeline

The introduction of the timeline feature could mean that your Friday night status update from a local pub will have much greater significance than most of us ever thought possible in the future.

“What’s new is the amount of data people are invited to, and will, provide,” says Dr. Ananda Mitra, a social media expert and Chair of the Communication Department at Wake Forest University in the US about the new Facebook update.

“Mining of all this data is the next inevitable step, opening the door for more prevalent community-based stories and more targeted marketing opportunities.”

Mitra coined the term “narb” last year to describe narrative bits that include the personal details such as age, sex, location and social preference people reveal using social media.

“Through narbs, Facebook Timeline makes your weekend check-in at the University’s football stadium with two of your friends more visible and data-rich than ever before. It says where you are, whose company you keep, that you like sports, that you possibly graduated from that school and suggests that you also might like to eat or drink certain things. It invites targeted advertising and information about consumption behaviour directly to your tailgate.”

Mitra’s comments are shared by other social media commentators and experts.

“No one should be surprised that recent Facebook features push private lives into the public space,” says Evelyn Castillo-Bach, founder of the new super-private social network UmeNow.com. The entrepreneur believes Facebook wants to “turn everyone into an exhibitionist.”

Facebook and Privacy

Privacy issues are increasingly common surrounding Facebook system updates. The roll out of ‘frictionless sharing’ has been increasingly problematic. In the US, campaign group Consumer Watchdog has joined the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and other privacy groups in asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook for privacy concerns surrounding ‘Frictionless Sharing.’

These privacy groups argue that the new features allow Facebook to choose which information will be displayed more prominently on a user’s profile, and gives Facebook the power to automatically share information like when a user reads an article, listens to a song, or watches a TV show on social apps.

“Once again Facebook has been violating its own stated privacy policies, this time by tracking users even after they logged out,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “The FTC needs to halt Facebook’s intrusive, abusive and deceptive practices.”
“Much of the data which Facebook now plans to publicize in new ways was shared by users who relied on a different privacy framework, or, in the case of post-log-out tracking, on Facebook’s representations of a different framework.”

Keeping your Privacy on Facebook

It is possible to maintain your privacy on the new Facebook design, but like many of the changes the company roll out, they do not like to publicise it too much to their billions of worldwide users.

For the Timeline you may not want all of your information and updates appearing for everyone to see. If you log into the control panel on your profile it is possible to can control which friends get to see what on your Timeline. You can also adjust app permissions and also hide any updates that you make from appearing on your Timeline.

Tags are another increasingly important area for Facebook and controlling your privacy. If you go to the privacy settings on your profile there is an area that says ‘How Tags Work’.

To keep your privacy in order you may want to select to be able to approve all photo, place and post related tags before they appear in your Timeline for all to see.


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