Take time out to customize Timeline

Have you been switched to Facebook's Timeline? Here's what you can do to protect your privacy

Shweta Taneja
First Published16 Oct 2012
Timeline allows just about anybody to search through your posts by year, unless you tweak your privacy settings<br />
Timeline allows just about anybody to search through your posts by year, unless you tweak your privacy settings

In its early days, Facebook was an intimate space where people were off guard and goofed around with close friends. Then it became bigger, and before you knew it, you had your family, colleagues and even your boss there. Timeline has now changed things further by making your profile much more accessible, and by default, highly public. You need to make some changes to your settings, and quickly, if you haven’t already. Here are some things you must not do:

Don’t disclose your location

It’s tempting to tell everyone, but no place online is private, so keep your address and location to yourself—remember, anyone, just about anyone at all, can see this information if it’s published on your Timeline. As a rule, never include where, when and for how many days you might be on vacation.

Settings: Facebook’s default setting is to disclose your location. In the left-bottom of the status message box is a rounded arrow pointing downwards. If it shows your city, you can click on it to disable geo-location. For Facebook Mobile, check the app settings on your smartphone and switch off Messenger Location Services.

Don’t let the apps decide

Applications on Facebook ask for access to your personal information and post to your wall when you use them. Even apps you’ve given permission to months ago and never use are still collecting data.

Settings: In your Privacy Settings on Facebook, click on Ads, Apps and Websites. Apps You Use shows a list of apps, and you can give app-level permissions for each individual app. You can tweak these one by one, keeping in mind the needs of each app, and you can remove apps you don’t use any more.

Don’t forget the old updates

Remember the kind of stuff you were posting on Facebook four years ago? Facebook has by default made it all public and has also made it easier for anyone to see what you were up to by putting down your activities by year.

Settings: Click on the Account menu, go to Privacy Settings and find Limit the Audience for Past Posts. Choose Manage Past Post Visibility to quickly clean up your early years on Facebook. After that, it’s still a good idea to scroll down the Timeline and see if there are private posts to hide.

Don’t post to public

Public means just that—everyone in the online world can see updates marked public. By default, your name, gender, user name, user ID, profile picture and cover photo on Facebook are public information. Posts you make on Pages and in Groups are automatically public, so never get into an argument with anyone there. All your posts are also public, but you can change the setting for those.

Settings: Go to Privacy Settings. In Control Privacy When You Post, choose who all can see the status updates, photos and information you post. Change who can see posts made from your Facebook mobile app too. This will handle new posts, but for old posts, you need to go to your Timeline and manually change the visibility of each post. It’s tedious, but important.

Don’t forget Timeline privacy settings

Your Timeline can be seen by anyone on Facebook with a simple name search. Default settings are mostly public, so anyone can see your information—from relatively innocuous details such as the city you live in, to more sensitive details such as your contact information.

Settings: Go to your Timeline and click on the Update Info button. Each section of the profile has an edit button to change visibility levels. To see if you have the Timeline set up properly for different people, press the gear icon on the right side of Timeline and choose View As…and enter people’s names to see what they will see.

Don’t take cookies with you

Facebook loves its cookies, those small trackers websites put into your browser to know where you are going and what you are doing online. If you are logged in, your browsing habits of websites other than Facebook are extensively recorded by the giant network. If you press the Like button on any third-party websites or service connected to Facebook, it will know and post on your profile on your behalf. Even when you log out of Facebook, it still tracks which websites you are on. An option is to log out of Facebook and then do your browsing, but Facebook cookies don’t expire even when you log off. Instead, like little bots, they track you whenever you visit a Facebook-enabled social app or website.

Settings: If you don’t want third-party sites to send data to Facebook while you are on them, first, don’t Like things on sites other than Facebook. Next, simply use nifty browser extensions. For Chrome and Firefox use Disconnect, which stops not only Facebook from dropping and keeping cookies in your system, but also controls bots from Google, Twitter, Digg and Yahoo.

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