Now that the much ballyhooed Facebook Timeline is live and available to everyone, people have already started adopting the new feature. The new profile design permits users to tell their entire life story by including or excluding as many events as you want. Have fond memories of that beach vacation to Puerto Rico with your high school senior class? Throw it on there. Still embarrassed about the time you got caught stealing expired cookies from Big-Lots after you graduated college? Leave it out and nobody’s none the wiser. It’s up to you. Add events to your own biography like never before.
This Timeline business is about to be an information bonanza for Facebook. But do you ever pause between Likes and consider exactly how much of your information is sitting around on Facebook’s shelves? That’s what 24-year-old Max Schrems of Vienna, Austria, wanted to find out so he asked Facebook for a copy of every single piece of information that they had collected on him.
The result? 1,222 PDF files that “was roughly the length of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.” See the accompanying video that details the startling density and depth of information that Facebook has been quietly plumbing from him:
And to see what Schrem’s info looks like as a graphic visualization, check out the links at the bottom of this page.
In case you weren’t creeped out enough, go watch that video again. Every log-in, every log-out, every message, every Like, every friend request accepted, every friend request ignored, every relationship status, every photo, every post, every poke, every app, every tag, every group you joined, every fan page you liked and literally everything in-between. And as if that wasn’t enough, they kept all of the material he deleted, too.
That Facebook has such a rich trove of information on Schrem (and, presumably, all of us) isn’t exactly a complete surprise as I’m sure we all have some drunken, low-level awareness that this is happening each time we sign on to the site. What’s disturbing is actually having that fear validated. It’s hard to even conceptualize how much information we happily hand over to Facebook until a story like Schrem’s comes along and puts it into terms that we can understand. 1,222 PDF files. That’s gobsmacking. I doubt I’ve even read that many PDFs in my entire life. Moreover, if the mass of information Facebook had already collected on us was enough to rival some of the beefiest tomes ever written, how will the size of our information on Facebook balloon now with the new Timeline feature where we can freely choose to include anything in our Facebook biography? If someone were an earnest Facebook Timeliner, could their profile eventually amount to 4,000 PDF files?
They probably don’t even have names for the types of memory size we would need to download it all. But when it is invented, it’ll probably sound like something we enjoy saying, like a Facebookbyte.