The new Facebook timelines are a neat way to display Facebook profiles and have therefore been embraced by many. Although it’s being rolled out to all users as I write, many have jumped the queue by using quick hacks because they like the look of the timeline so much.
Now, while the Facebook timeline looks fantastic, there are a few privacy concerns worth keeping in mind. For most people, certain things will need adjusting before you can be completely sure that your posts aren’t being exposed to the public unintentionally. We’ll take you through some of the major things you should check.
Note that even if you have chosen to use the new timeline it still needs to be published in order to be seen publicly. You can do this yourself after enabling the timeline, or Facebook will do it for you eventually. This gives you a chance to test your privacy settings before they’re live.
1. Testing Your Settings
There’s so many aspects of Facebook that can be controlled with different privacy settings that it can get a little bit confusing. Remember though, that at any time you can check how your Facebook profile looks to any person you are friends with. Simply go to your profile and click on the cog-like edit icon and choose “View as…” to choose a person to view the profile as.
If you’ve been setting your privacy settings by using custom filters, a good idea would be to check a family member, a colleague, a good friend and an acquaintance. This will give you an idea how these different types of people can see your profile. Check your profile like this before and after checking the following settings.
2. Limit Your Past & Future Default Post Settings
There is a way to limit the audience for past posts easily. If you think it’s possible you made some embarrassing public posts when you first joined Facebook and hadn’t yet friended your boss, this is the tool for you. Go to Home > Privacy Settings and find the section for “Limit the Audience for Past Posts“, clicking on the “Manage Past Post Visibility” link. Follow the prompts and confirmation to limit all of your “More than Friends” posts from your past to just your friends.
This will include public posts and friends of friends, so it should catch all those unexpected posts. There’s no way to reverse it with one click, so make sure it’s what you really want to do.
Also keep in mind that this setting is entirely different from future posts you make. If you want to limit default privacy for future posts, there’s a simple choice to make on your privacy settings page.
3. Manually Tweak Individual Items On Your Page
This is the tool for you if you’re fairly sure your privacy settings are what you want. For instance, if you’ve already viewed your profile as your boss and there’s just a few things you want to get rid of or feature on your profile.
Head to the box containing the post you want to feature or delete. You may realise in hindsight that the update was a little silly, or it might be an update that you want everyone to know the second they see your profile. The feature/hide buttons are right next to each other in the top right of every update.
4. Controlling Who Sees Things Others Post On Your Timeline
If you had previously controlled which of your friends can view posts on your wall, this setting will have migrated to cover your timeline. Sadly, Facebook won’t let you control which of your friends can post to your wall/timeline. It’s either all of your friends or just yourself. So, you need to instead control who can view what your friends write.
Head to Home > Privacy Settings > How You Connect and click on the control for “Who can see posts by others on your timeline?” to set things up properly. This is best controlled using custom friends lists to both nominate who can see the posts and who can never see the posts your friends make. Just think, your high school friends, relatives, boss and current friends can all write on your wall/timeline. Who do you want to see those messages? Who do you NOT want to see them?
5. Check The Privacy Of Your Contact Information
Now’s a great time to check just how public each bit of your profile information is. Go to your profile and click on “Update Info” to see your work history, education, relationships, contact details and other details. Each piece of information can be limited to friends, custom friend groups or just yourself. Who should know where you live? Your phone number? Edit the section, then click on the icon to the right of any piece of information in order to change who can see it.
Learn More About Facebook Privacy
If you’re keen to learn more about Facebook privacy in general (especially how to use custom friend lists to filter your privacy settings), then check out the Unofficial Facebook Privacy Guide.