Monday Grok: Don’t be creepy

An irreverent take on the wacky world of tech.

Google in its early adolescent funk, famously aspired to a ‘Don’t be Evil’ motif. It was just a pity when those poor Chinese dissidents wandered into the crosshairs a few years later. Facebook, which ironically got privacy and profile control just right when it was first running up hard against the then ascendant MySpace, has no such illusions. You can probably read about it in Mark Zuckerburg’s own Timeline.

Facebook Timeline has excited much interest over the weekend and into the Monday editions.

The SMH got in early with a report on the 23rd that Timeline which not is yet available to mere mortals, “can go back to include years before Facebook even existed - (something about Neutrino’s travelling faster than the speed of light apparently) so users can add photos and events from, say 1995 when they got married or 1970 when they were born. Users can also add also music, maps and other content next to their memories.” (For the copyright thieves among you The SMH provides a neat little feature that inserts a link to the original story when you cut and paste their intellectual property.)

The Australian meanwhile, knows a bummer when it manufactures one and so drags the privacy commissioner into the conversation with this: “The federal privacy watchdog last night issued a fresh warning to consumers to be wary of how social networking sites use their information after Facebook announced a new feature called Timeline, which creates data digital maps of everything a user has done online.” (My italics)

Well, that’s not quite correct though, is it. For those of you who don’t use Facebook, still the majority of Australians in case you were wondering, Facebook will NOT create, “data digital maps of everything a user has done online” so you can keep on surfing celebrity porn sites to your heart's content. It will instead, create digital maps of everything you have done on Facebook, if you so allow it, a small detail we know, but it's called accuracy. The headline accompanying the story is even worse.

And so to the bloggers, and on the one hand “Timeline changes nothing” according to Grok’s preferred and self destructing Web Blog TechCrunch. This is reassuring until you visit TheNextWeb which argues the complete opposite.

On this one, Grok is with TNW. Simply being able to back fill and back date your Timeline allows for all sorts of editing and arse covering in a way that removes the essential joy of Facebook - letting your keyboard get ahead of your cerebral cortex and spraying off missive after ill considered missive to the amusement and occasional outrage of friends, and fellow travellers.

“By introducing Timeline as a “feature” instead of what it really is (the biggest online collection of your personal data to date), Zuckerburg essentially dodged a bullet. Facebook is easing users into a radically different experience.”

According to TNW, Facebook is on its way to becoming the largest index of people that has ever existed. We can’t do the TNW article justice here, so read it yourself in full if you're the kind of person who worries endlessly about internet privacy and who prefers their outrage to be flavoured “Facebook”.

There were some early missteps with the release (what Microsoft used to call undocumented features). For instance, ZDNet and geek.com both lead with the fact that you could track who defriended you -subsequently Facebook has “corrected this” experience.

Meanwhile your humble Computerworld Australia grokker noticed anonymous comments turning up in a friends news feed. The user was simply identified as “Facebook User.” Problem was, you could strip away the thin veneer of anonymity using your Facebook Mobile app and checking back through the notifications. (See, it pays to be geek) This must have been another undocumented feature as it now also seems to have been unwound.

In non Facebook news - yes there really is some – [[xref: http://bit.ly/oX94UE |The Fin]] reports that Internet investment company Netus chaired by industry stalwart Daniel Petrie, (He of the Dorian Gray hairstyling) and half owned by News Limited is divesting itself of several holdings.

And it turns out technology investments aren’t such a bad lark after all. The AFR also reports that a quarter of all the people to make the BRW Young Rich List (you need to under 40 and a gazillionaire to qualify) made their loot from the Binary rag trade.

Finally, the People’s Republic of The Age reports http://goo.gl/jh2uI that only 16000 people will be needed to build the NBN, not the 37000 originally anticipated, and from the tone of the article, this is apparently a bad thing. Remember that when your tax assessment falls due.

“80 per cent of the workforce demand will be for low-skilled jobs - predominantly labourers, cablers and earthmoving plant operators,” sniffs the old Bollinger bolshevik. No chance of an invite to Bridge at the Melbourne Club for that lot, then.

By Andrew Birmingham

Andrew Birmingham has spent 20 years writing about, managing, and developing technology. Follow him on twitter @ag_birmingham, friend him on Facebook: Andrew.birmingham1@facebook.com or stalk him on linkedin http://goo.gl/10AGj . There’s even Myspace and Friendster accounts out there somewhere.

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