Q: What do I need to do to make sure that Facebook forcing us to use Timeline doesn't expose my personal information? - Claudia

A: As Facebook continues to update and improve its social networking tool, it continues to create confusion and apprehension amongst many of its users. Change is not something that non-technical users are comfortable with, but if you expect it to stop any time soon, I've got news for you!

You don't create something as dynamic and all-encompassing as Facebook without constantly reinventing yourself (see the history of MySpace to understand what happens when fat, dumb and happy syndrome kicks in!).

Having said that, Facebook hasn't always gone about change in a way that its users find ‘transparent,' which is a big part of why any change is always met with concerns about privacy, especially when it is a required change.

But when it comes to the Timeline feature, I don't understand the outcry from users that seems to be rolling across the inter-webs. In fact, most avid Facebook users find the new profile layout much more useful and engaging.

If you think that Timeline somehow exposes information that you previously had protected from the general public, I've got good news for you: It doesn't!

Timeline is simply reformatting the information that you have previously posted but retains your current privacy settings.

In other words, what you posted a year ago that was only available to your friends is still only viewable by your friends, but in this ‘easier to see the past' format.

If you see items from your past that you don't want your friends to see, why did you ever post it in the first place? If it was OK for friends of friends to see the post a year ago, and YOU haven't changed any of your privacy settings, then nothing has changed.

The most common misnomer I run across is that what you see on your own Timeline is somehow going to be viewable by anyone on Facebook once this ‘change' goes into effect (not even close to true).

Facebook gives you complete control over exactly what appears on your Timeline and who can see it (friends only, friends of friends, the public, etc.) just like it did with your previous profile format.

If you are just entering the workforce and aren't particularly proud of some of your ‘youthful' posts, I can understand being concerned, but it isn't like a potential employer can suddenly see all your past indiscretions.

Timeline is simply making it much easier to see things that you've posted in the past (which is why I love it) but retains all your privacy settings.

Facebook even added a tool that allows you to take all your past posts and limit everything to friends only (go to Privacy Settings, then to Limit the Audience for Past Posts).

Keep in mind, pictures and posts that you intended to be available to friends of friends in the past would no longer be available to that secondary audience.

Before you make any global changes to your privacy settings, take a minute to learn about all the controls that Facebook has added so you can completely control what anyone sees: https://www.facebook.com/about/control.

A very helpful tool for you to feel better about your privacy settings is to click on the ‘View As' link to see exactly what the public or any specific person you are concerned about can see on your Timeline (Scroll down to the box that says: Know what others see on your profile).

Hopefully this helps you feel better about this new change ... Facebook has given you more tools to control your privacy than ever; it's up to you to take advantage of them!

Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to evtrib@datadoctors.com.


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