Social networking monolith Facebook rolled out its “Timeline” application this week, allowing users to construct pictorial autobiographies online for the enjoyment and convenience of friends and family and complete strangers. The process involves organizing photographs posted and made available online, ranging from the recent to the prehistoric, and the depth with which the networking site can plumb its users’ digital pasts has privacy protectors off to the ramparts, cranking the alarms.
With Facebook’s Timeline application, they warn, private online data will be even less safe than it was before, when its only threats were Twitter, blogs, Google, Flickr, Photobucket, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, and the old-fashioned Facebook. The alarmists have, as pointed out in these pages once or twice before, overlooked – in their rush to the ramparts – the obvious solution:
If you don’t want people to know something about you, and don’t want them to be able to find it out, don’t put it online. Don’t post, tweet, chirp, hoot or do any other silly thing about it. Keep it to yourself. Contrary to apparently popular belief and reality television, not everybody needs – or wants – to know everything about everbody else, all the time.
Accusing organizations like Facebook of invading our privacy, or paving the way for others to invade it, is a galactic abdication of personal responsibility. After all, Facebook didn’t put those embarassing New Year’s Eve photographs online for public consumption… we did. Making information available online and complaining when it’s found is like leaving the keys in your Mercedes and being surprised when it’s stolen.