Everyone can learn from watching Facebook’s timeline of its own recent activity – whether it motivates you to change how you use Facebook is, of course, your choice. The latest? Facebook users this week began noticing old messages being automatically reposted as new on their timelines (the new layout forced as an upgrade on all users). A Facebook spokesperson said the following:
“Users raised concerns after what they mistakenly 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.“ – Facebook
Even if Facebook is correct and these re-posted messages from years ago were 100% public, why might these “mistaken users” still be upset? We at Abine know why, and so, most likely, do you: because privacy is more than a setting or a checkbox. Privacy often concerns what we expect others to be able to know about us at any given moment. We don’t want it decided for us by others to suddenly broadcast things we did or said years ago – even if they were once captured in public and are therefore available. This is about privacy. It is about information we expected to be consumed years ago by friends and friends of friends whom we trust. If we get to a point where information we’ve given out in public online becomes used in ways and at times we don’t expect, here’s what will happen:
We will stop doing lots of things in public online as freely, without worrying.
Facebook thinks differently (that’s why they’re confused by users concerns). They think we’ll keep commenting, sharing, and doing everything in public online; even if we’re shocked at how these things might come back to haunt us in unexpected ways later.
Facebook’s expectations are plain wrong.
They’re wrong because we all have established notions about what feels right to reveal about ourselves and what should be harder for others to discover. These notions are at the core of how we represent ourselves – both offline and online. If web sites like Facebook and many others that help us share and communicate don’t start understanding that tracking us in ways we don’t expect and using information we shared in ways we didn’t intend isn’t just “our mistake” – rather that it is truly their mistake – then they will, at the height of all their attempts to keep our attention, lose us as engaged users.