Your Facebook Timeline is a Funhouse Mirror

“We’ll see – but I think there’s a real risk that people will find the Facebook reflection of themselves repulsive, horrifying on an existential level. It’s not about privacy or clear exploitation of activity data, as it was with Beacon, it’s more about concern with how extensively one company and the web is able to stitch together a picture of our whole lives.”

“Facebook’s New Timeline, Beacon & the Uncanny Valley,”Marshall Kirkpatrick

I listened in to most of Mark Zuckerberg’s awkward f8 keynote earlier (checking the video now and then to make sure Andy Samberg wasn’t on stage), and three things caught my attention:

  1. Ticker vs. News Feed: The addition of Ticker to segregate “lightweight” updates (it’s that new box on the right-hand side of the main page) was presented as a user benefit, cutting down on the noise in your News Feed, but its real purpose is to encourage users to post more and not worry about cluttering their friends’ streams. More posts = more data for Facebook to mine.
  2. “Frictionless Experience”: While posited as a user benefit, eliminating the need to approve all those pesky requests from apps to share data every time you access them, its real purpose is to feed as much data as possible into Facebook for them to mine.
  3. Privacy Sleight of Hand: Unlike Beacon, which was implemented clumsily and offered zero benefit to users, Facebook has clearly learned their lesson and are shrouding their latest data grab in shiny features that, on the surface, are beneficial to users. Hell, they even pulled in Nick Felton and his fun infographics to mask the fact that this is all just about getting ever more DATA for Facebook to mine.

Nothing in life is free, and in Facebook’s case, you pay for the service with your data. As Kirkpatrick notes, the real question is have they finally gone too far and will users start to rethink their usage of Facebook as their Timeline reveals… what?

Early in the keynote, Zuckerberg said, “Timeline is the story of your life… A new way to express who you are.”

Based on what I see in my News Feed, I suspect Timeline is going to unveil a mirror that will surprise a lot of people with what it reveals about them, and not in an, “Oh, that’s awesome!” kind of way.

We live in crazy times…

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