Timeline Scams Show Why Facebook Should Be More Upfront with Policies

Facebook should have done more to prevent scammers from taking advantage of people desperate to leave Timeline.

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Don’t like Facebook Timeline? Too bad, because you’re stuck with it.

Hence the arrival of scammers, cynically taking advantage of those nostalgic for the old profile design by creating at least 16 pages promising a way to undo Timeline.

According to Inside Facebook, the pages have collectively accumulated around 71,000 “Likes,” prompting users to “invite friends, watch YouTube videos and download files.” They’re also pretty easy to find; search for “timeline” on Facebook and you’ll find pages titled “Deactivate Your FB Timeline” and “Here You Can Remove Facebook Timeline.”

(PHOTOS: A Zuckerberg Family Album)

This is bad news for Facebook for several reasons. One, of course, is that its users are being scammed. The other is that it’s not exactly great PR for Timeline.

Back when I initially reviewed it, I praised the decision to make Timeline opt-in. While browsing through people’s profiles is a lot more fun, it’s a bit of a privacy nightmare, especially if you don’t take the hour or so required to spot clean your virtual past.

What I failed to mention was that, much like the mafia, once you’re in, you’re in. Facebook is determined to make Timeline the de facto Facebook profile. In the future, every user will be transitioned over to the new format whether they like it or not.

Which brings us back to the scams. They are proof that thousands of people have no idea that you can’t switch back to the old profile. I don’t blame them; I tried searching throughout Facebook’s Timeline Help Center (where, presumably, such information would live) and found nothing that would warn someone that you can’t leave Timeline once you join.

Facebook has very little incentive to delay you from joining Timeline. After all, soon everyone will have it, so why give people the option to switch back to a profile that won’t exist?

That makes a lot of sense. So why not just make that clear from the get-go? Did Facebook really have so much faith in its design that it didn’t anticipate that thousands and thousands of people would hate it and want out?

This is the aftermath of that little bit of hubris. Frustrated users, with no information provided to them by Facebook, are taking things into their own hands and ending up at pages created to profit off of their confusion.

Yes, if people knew that opting in to Timeline was a one-way street, fewer of them would have signed up. That’s still no excuse to not give users fair warning before they make that decision.

Facebook has a nasty habit of releasing products people don’t like and assuming that one day they’ll see the light and realize Zuckerberg was right all along. It might have worked with the News Feed redesign (although I still can’t stand the ticker) but after this debacle, who knows; it might be different.

MORE: Facebook Can Be Sued for Using You to Promote Products (in California, Anyway)

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