Facebook Timeline Gives Away Your Age in Spite of Privacy Settings

facebook timeline age bug

Click to view full size

Facebook Timeline, announced this week at f8, Facebook’s Developer conference, revolutionizes the Facebook profile as we know it, unfortunately at the expense of some pre-existing privacy settings and expectations. Timeline is expected to replace all user profiles by September 30th (you can opt in early at the bottom of this page).

All users’ birth dates appear on a user’s Timeline regardless of settings. Even if you choose to disclose only the month and day of your birth (and not the year), your age can still be approximated as a result of its appearance in the context of the Timeline.

 

What used to be "Edit Profile" is not "Update Info" - Birthday settings are obscured inside "Basic Info" which seems a bit buried on the right column

I do not feel this is a betrayal of privacy but I am flagging it as it seems to be bug in the way Timeline works and that it may lead to the revelation of similar issues in the way we record our history and behavior on Facebook and across the social web. The fact that Timeline reveals your birth year should be among the least of your concerns [see my more in-depth post here]. (Another borderline-irrelevant privacy expectation that changes in Timeline is one’s ability to see which friends added in particular years are no longer friends.)

It is not immediately clear why the years 1976 and 1977 appear in my Timeline without content. However, those are the birth years of my brother-in-law and sister (both of whom also publish only the month and day of their birth [not the year] on their respective Facebook profiles.

Facebook Timeline is an incredibly cool concept and a very sharp way to archive, scrapbook and view all the important events in one’s life. I’ve decided to go ahead and make public my year of birth, however, there does not seem to be a resolution for people concerned with age discrimination and those who wish to remain ageless.

21 thoughts on “Facebook Timeline Gives Away Your Age in Spite of Privacy Settings

    1. Andy Sternberg

      Great point, Kami. it’s not a MAJOR issue but it may be fixable. Why did I just publish my birth year (1975)? Because my vertical timeline at the top right in one instance read 2000s, 1970s, Born. Which made me look even OLDER!

      Reply
    2. Ed T.

      MY issue is that many places use the full birthday as one means of verifying your identity if you contact them. Especially medical-related places. It is also possible (some say “trivial”) to guess your SSN if your date and place of birth are known. Which makes this a highly desired piece of information for those wishing to commit ID theft (or mooch off your health insurance – which can have DISASTROUS consequences.)

      Reply
  1. Anonymous

    Yeah, I’m pretty open about my age in general, but I don’t disclose my birth year in my “Basic Info” on FB b/c of concern with ID theft and just having that piece of info at the ready for some nefarious bot to mine.

    Reply
  2. Kathy

    How can you turn off the age part of the timeline? I don’t think it’s anyone’s business what year I was born in.

    Reply
  3. Dawn

    My birthday, with year, is showing up in my sister’s timeline! I have not yet gone over to the timeline, but on my profile I have it set to just show month and day. How do I get it to stop showing my birth year in other people’s timelines?

    Reply
  4. John Wayne Tucker

    My year of birth is turned off on my timeline, BUT, my age is displayed in the Birthday reminders under events. Most peoples ages are not displayed, but many are. I want to turn that off. Such information can cause a lot of age discrimination. Is there a way to turn off your age under the Birthday reminders?

    Reply
  5. vickie lafreniere

    I want my year of birth taken off of the event list…people don’t need to see my age…not anyones business

    Reply
  6. vickie lafreniere

    face book doesn’t post date date & year of birth if you don’t want it so I assumed timeline wouldn’t either ???

    Reply
    1. Jane Elliott

      It doesn’t matter what you don’t show on your timeline. When your birthday comes around, it will show in all your friends “Events” and it will show your age too.

      Reply
  7. Gillian

    I did NOT put my year of birth when I joined FB and yet there it is for all to see on my timeline. I’ve done everything I can to remove it, but still it stays. I am getting very frustrated. Does anyone have the answer?

    Reply
    1. Andy Sternberg Post author

      Go to your profile, at upper left click on “About.” then scroll down on the right column to “Basic Info,” click “Edit.” Under Birthday you can select how detailed you want the display to be.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  8. Mark P

    I blocked the year of my birth for privacy reasons

    but my full birthday with year is showing when I click on the About me box
    at the top right in history
    and in my birthday info…

    Do not care to disclose this
    and it could help facililtate ID theft etc…

    Reply
  9. carolin stevenson

    have done edit &saved not to show bthdy on timeline – only have android phone – no pc – still shows – where’s data protection laws when u need them – sooo annoying – didn’t have this prob until fb update – help

    Reply
  10. pattim

    Does anyone know how I can remove my year of birth completely from FB? My issue is that it syncs with Mac contacts including the year of birth even though I disable year in my timeline. Thanks !

    Reply
  11. Please Help

    I recently signed up for Facebook but never posted any stories. I finally think I fixed it so that it doesn’t show my birth year, but it suddenly started showing a year that is just a few years from my birth year on my timeline. In other words, my timeline has “Born” without the date, then this other stupid year, then the present year. I never added any Life Event that could be attached to it. That extra year they included out of nowhere has no stories attached to it and certainly Facebook wasn’t even around then. There is no option to delete that year. It seems that Facebook is angry that it couldn’t show my birth year, so it chose a year close to it that I see no way to delete. Including that year seems to just have the function of making me look old. Please help. Please give detailed instructions for deletion. I don’t know my way around Facebook very well yet. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  12. Blue

    Dear “Please Help”,

    I think the best help I can offer you is to suggest you delete your Facebook account right away and never look back. I’m almost at that point myself, but I got sucked in a few years ago and it’s hard to back out once you’re embroiled.

    I truly hate Facebook and its endless, brazen privacy violations. The market is ripe for a new platform that gives USERS control over their privacy – come on programmers/developers, the world is waiting…

    Reply

Leave a Reply