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Facebook's Timeline Feature a Privacy Concern?

How much personal information is too much?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Facebook's Timeline Feature a Privacy Concern?Last week, the world's most popular social networking site unveiled a new way for users to list their life events, and share that information with friends and family.

The new feature, which Facebook calls Timeline, makes it easier for users to find all photos, links and other shared items on the site, according to a report from the New York Times. Consequently, many experts say that personal information shared on the site is now more accessible than ever, and could be a concern for some users.

Facebook, which has more than 800 million users around the globe, has been storing everything ever uploaded onto the site, and all Timeline has done is simply made it easier to find years-old information, the report said. Eventually, all profiles on the site will be switched over to the new Timeline look, but users are also able to voluntarily update their settings right now.

"We've all been dropping status updates and photos into a void," Ben Werdmuller, the chief technology officer for the video service Latakoo, told the site. "We knew we were sharing this much, of course, but it's weird to realize they've been keeping this information and can serve it up for anyone to see. It's unsettling to see the past presented as clearly as the present. It's your life in context, all in one place."

Of course, Facebook has already been at the center of a number of debates over how easy it is to find consumers' personal information online, and how readily users will share that information without regard for who can access it. For this reason, privacy experts have been advocating for years that the site's users should update their personal privacy restrictions to the highest possible settings, which will help to keep their sensitive data - such as their address, date of birth and other details that can be used for identity theft - as private as possible. This will be especially important now that Timeline exists because it will allow those interested in accessing this information to aggregate it more easily.

Eduard Goodman, the chief privacy officer for Identity Theft 911, writes a blog about ways in which consumers can increase the security of their information on sites like Facebook.

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