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f8 and Facebook timeline

05 October, 2011
By Allison Orr

At the recent f8 event, Facebook’s annual developers conference in San Francisco, Mark Zuckerberg announced the introduction of Timeline.

The Timeline allows users to put their entire lives on Facebook, now organized by days, months and years.  It means users can go back and fill in the gaps in their facebook profiles – all the way back to their birth.

Zuckerberg said at f8 that the old way user profiles were set-up simulated the first five minutes of a conversation with a friend (basic information such as where you live, what you do, where you went to school, your relationship status), but now you can show your whole life.  He described it as a deeper more meaningful conversation, as you might have over a couple of hours with a good friend.

Facebook has sparked privacy concerns with its "frictionless" information sharing.  A user will no longer have to click the "Like" button to share an app with their friends.  Users who click on "Add to Timeline" on any app will grant the app permission to share their activity with their Facebook friends.  For example. when users read an article on the Facebook apps of a newspaper, the headline appears as an item on your friends’ newsfeeds.

The Electronic Information Privacy Centre, the Center for Digital Democracy and the American Civil Liberties Union have joined to send a compliant letter to the Federal Trade Commission in the US, arguing that Facebook may be engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices with its new sharing tools. Their concern is the use cookies to track activity of users, even after they have logged off Facebook.  They claim changes outlined at f8 such as the introduction of Timeline "give the company far greater ability to disclose the personal information of its users to its business partners than in the past".  And now options to preserve privacy have become "confusing, impractical, and unfair" to users.

The concern over Facebook's use of cookies has been written about by a blogger who demonstrated that Facebook was still collecting identifiable information about users after they had logged out from the social networking site.  According to Nik Cubrilovic, even when you are logged out, Facebook can still track every page you visit.  The only way to stop this is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.  

Facebook has admitted some cookies were tracking users in error, and have fixed the error. But Cubrilovic says the tracking is still happening, and the cookies are set by all sites that contain Facebook widgets.  According to an article by Asher Moses in the Sydney Morning Herald, the "datr" tracking cookies are activated even if the user had never been to the Facebook site or click a "like" or "share" button.

In the US, an Illinois man has filed a lawsuit over the tracking on behalf of Facebook users and is seeking class action status.

Previously published in undefined.

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