Facebook Timeline: real answers to 4 common questions

As Facebook switches another wave of resistant users over to Timeline, I’ve noticed a number of questions–and misguided assumptions–popping up in my News Feed. These posts range from, “Warning! Facebook is making everything public when you switch!” to “Why can everyone see what I’m reading on The Washington Post?”

For the average (and even the more seasoned) user, Facebook’s privacy controls, new features and updates are a labyrinth. Throw in Facebook’s most significant redesign, and it’s no wonder users loathe its cycle of constant changes.

If you’ve recently switched to Timeline, or are still resisting the change, here are the answers to four of the most common questions I’ve been asked lately.

1. Will my privacy settings change?

The short answer is no. But, if you’re an infrequent Facebook user (or haven’t checked out your privacy settings recently), remember that it did redesign its privacy centre last year, condensing a number of options to “make it easier for users to navigate.”

With Timeline, you can now easily resurface and find old posts, ones that may have been added before you had the option to restrict them from a Limited Profile list or an acquaintance list. For this reason, you may want to delete some old posts or at least change the settings for some. Facebook gives you seven days from the time you make the switch to Timeline to change whatever you want before it goes live.

You have a number of options when it comes to dealing with your old posts. This article Facebook Timeline: four ways to keep your privacy in tact, describes what you can do, from limiting the posts by others on your Timeline to manually deleting posts and changing individual privacy settings.

2. How do I know if I have the right privacy settings?

This tricky-to-find tool, called “View As,” is an important one and can save you a lot of time guessing whether or not a part of your profile is viewable to others.

“View As” lets you view your profile from the eyes of the public–i.e. someone you’re not friends with–as well as individual friends. Once you switch to Timeline, you can find this feature by clicking the gear icon next to the “Activity Log” button below your cover photo, then select “View As.”

In the text that appears at the top of the page, notice that the word “public” is linked. Click on that to see how your profile looks to people you’re not friends with. Or, to view your profile from the perspective of a particular friend, enter in a name in the box below.

3. How can I change my photo privacy?

After any major Facebook change or update, I always get questions related to photo privacy even if the change or update was unrelated. And every time, it seems, the answers to photo privacy questions are more and more elusive.

If Timeline has sparked your interest in who can see which photos–whether it’s your albums or photos you’re tagged in–here’s what you need to know once you’ve made the switch.

-How to change the privacy of photos you’re tagged in:

Start by clicking the drop-down menu from the arrow at the top right of your screen and select “Privacy Settings.” Next, choose “Edit Settings” next to “Timeline and Tagging.” Click the drop-down menu next to “Who can see posts that appear on your Timeline because you’ve been tagged.” Then, make the change to your privacy setting, or click “Custom” to make the photos visible to only you or certain lists. Finish by clicking “Save changes.”

This setting is one that Facebook condensed when it redesigned its privacy page. As a result, you can no longer change the individual settings of photo tags and posts (or locations) in which people tag you. Instead, this blanket setting encompasses all three. If you change this setting to make photos you’re tagged in private (i.e., only you can see them) the same setting will apply to wall posts and location tags.


-How to change the privacy of photo albums:

First, click on the “Photos” icon from your Timeline. Then, next to each album, click the icon in the lower-right to change the album’s privacy to whatever you prefer. You’ll have to do this individually for each album.

4. Can I use Facebook’s new apps privately?

You’ve probably seen posts in your News Feed or Ticker saying a friend has read a story on The Washington Post or pinned something to a board on Pinterest. Facebook boasts that there are nearly 3,000 of these apps, which let you share a variety of actions with your friends, beyond “liking” something, such as what you’re reading or what you’re watching.

But if you’re not careful when you first allow these apps access to your information, they’ll likely post your activity to your wall and to your friends’ News Feeds. You have a few options.


Below the app summary information you see when you first choose to download an app is this option: “Who can see activity from this app on Facebook.”

How you’ve set your default privacy settings–either public, friends or a custom setting– will be the automatic setting for all your applications, unless you change it.

-After you’ve installed an app:

If you’re not sure what your app preferences are or if you want to adjust them, you can review them one by one from within your Privacy Settings page.

From the drop-down menu in the top-right of your screen, select “Privacy Settings” then choose “Edit Settings” next to “Apps and Web sites.” On the apps privacy page, click “Edit Settings” next to “Apps you use”–this will show you all the apps that you have downloaded as well as the privacy and permissions associated with them.

Here, you can remove the app if you no longer want it connected to your account. You can also preview what permissions the app has and remove certain ones (some are mandatory and cannot be removed).

The last option, “App activity privacy” will tell you who can see posts and activity from this app. If you don’t want Facebook to share your activity, change this option to “Only Me.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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