I believe I was the 31,452nd person to "Like" Intel's "The Museum of Me" on Facebook. Using Facebook Connect, Intel takes users on a visually beautiful and informative tour of their life on the social network, inviting users to tour their Facebook life as a "journey of visualization that explores who I am." While it is hard not to be taken with the tool just by virtue of it being really cool, I found it inspiring for how we can perhaps teach people about their personal privacy.
The visualization brought up photos even I had completely forgotten I posted, friends that had likely been added back in 2005 when my college universe still dominated my Facebook existence (as it only used to be open to college students, how nostalgic) and links that even I forgot I posted a few weeks ago, like a video of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's visit to the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. The two-minute tour not only shows your friends, pictures, location, words, links and videos, it also depicts a spherical network of who you are connected to, a visual representation of one's Facebook universe that most users likely do not imagine when they are using the social network day-to-day.
As we are trying to figure out user privacy, both at the individual level and through regulatory models, whether advanced by government or the private sector, user awareness and education are often themes in the debate. We know privacy policies in their current incarnation are not working, but what will work continues to be a question. As the newest evolution in privacy warnings has moved towards icons, such as TRUSTe's "Truth in Privacy" framework, consideration should be given to visualizations that personalize the experience that someone may have on the website they are visiting or the mobile application they are using. If there was a means of prospective visualization, this may be the future of educating users on privacy in a meaningful way.
I will admit, it was not a wholly accurate representation of my social life considering how Facebook works, but its effect was educating and its framing was memorable. It felt like watching a movie, yet when it came to the end, I did not find it to be the conclusion of a story, but rather the beginning of an exploration for what could be next in what has become the journey of how we deal with personal information in the digital age.
Follow Christina Gagnier on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gagnier