By Marlesse Marino (@marlesse)
It is official folks, Facebook Timeline is here! Instead of a seeing a disjointed list of wall comments, status updates, mobile uploads and Farmville requests, the new Timeline displays an organized and visually interactive story of your Facebook life dating back to when you first signed up with the social networking site.
Facebook users will also have access to a new tool called Activity Log. According to a blog post by the Timeline team, “your activity log is a place where you can review all your posts and activity, from today back to when you first started using Facebook. Only you can see your activity log.”
Along with the awesome new interface (it’s seriously beautiful, check it out here if your profile hasn’t updated yet), comes a potentially not-so-awesome new way to expose parts of your life that you never intended to share with your employers, clients and my personal nightmare – FAMILY MEMBERS. In a September post, former Mashable editor-at-large, Ben Parr went so far as to state that Facebook Timeline was assisting in euthanizing the concept of privacy.
According to the Facebook blog, “Timeline gives you an easy way to rediscover the things you shared, and collect your most important moments.” While this sounds poignant, there are certain “important moments” on Facebook that I would appreciate that no one “rediscovers.”
With Timeline making it easier than ever to find out what your best friend ate for lunch two years ago, or for others to find out what you wore on Halloween as a college freshman (Cave Girl – don’t judge), I thought it would be pretty useful to provide a refresher on Facebook privacy and the perils of over-sharing on the Internet.
1. Update your privacy settings: Since Timeline shows everything you’ve posted in a single view, it provides easy, scrollable access to your past Facebook blunders. Although Facebook Timeline is rolling out today, you have a seven-day review period to go through your profile and hide or delete unwanted posts, so take advantage. Facebook offers security and privacy tools for a reason – use them!
2. Be mindful of who you talk to online: The old saying, “stranger danger” is definitely applicable to people you talk to on Facebook or any social networking tool, not just the weirdos in vans with tinted windows advertising free candy. Take for example, this story by New York Times Bits blogger, Nick Bilton. After receiving a comment from a user on Instagram, Nick goes on a 10-minute stalking session on Google which culminates with him finding the full name, phone number, home address and place of employment of a person who commented on a few of his Instagram photos. You would think that writer for The New York Times won’t hunt down your personal address for fun, right? If you did, read Nick’s article proving you very wrong.
3. Discriminate when deciding to share information: There are tons of Facebook applications out there, so be cautious when allowing anything to access yours and your friends’ personal information on Facebook. For an extreme example of the amount of information you share when you permit application access to your account, check out Take This Lollipop. Take This Lollipop is an interactive short video, which shows a deranged man in a windowless room looking at YOUR Facebook page. The site asks you to sign in with your Facebook login, takes information from your account and weaves it into the video. You get to watch a creepy man stroke pictures of you with his grimy hands, and then continue to stare in horror while he use Google Maps to find out where you live. This video terrified me to the point that I deleted every app that was on my account.
4. If you have to ask, don’t post: If you have to question whether something is inappropriate, don’t post it. It probably is, so just tell your friends in person. The Internet will not be at a loss if your potentially inappropriate comment doesn’t make it onto the World Wide Web. Even if your privacy settings are extremely limited, an error in the system can make that once-private comment available to everyone. Just last week, Facebook had a snag that exposed personal, private photos of many of its users, including Mark Zuckerberg. The glitch was fixed almost immediately, but the system was down for enough time for me to get the personal photo below of Zuckerberg hanging out with his girlfriend and his adorable dog below!
These tips boil down to one thing: Once you post something to the Internet, it’s there forever. Think twice before you hit enter, especially now that Timeline allows for even easier access to your private life.
What are your thoughts on Facebook Timeline? Do you think it puts an end to privacy? What steps are you taking to keep your personal information hidden?