Love it or hate it, if you're a Facebook user, the new past-sharing visual Timeline (which replaces your profile page) is in your future. Timeline's bringing big-mouthed friends to the party, too, in the form of "Open Graph" apps. These apps can automatically post your non-Facebook online activities onto your Facebook Wall, so if you listen to a song on Spotify or read a Washington Post article after installing their respective apps, your Facebook friends are notified of all the specific, juicy details. That's bad news for closet Britney Spears fans! The good news: most of the sharing options that privacy-minded Facebookers are concerned about can be disabled -- and we have the details how.
Everyone can see all the posts I've ever made!
Timeline sure looks scary the first time you look at it. There are all of your status updates, pictures, and location-based check-ins, dating back to the day you signed up for Facebook, all there for the world to see. So will your future managers and coworkers be able to see the broken-hearted midnight ramblings you posted back in your college days? (Not to mention embarrassing pictures.)
Not necessarily. Any posts that you shared with Friends will remain visible to your Friends alone, even if they appear when you look at your own Timeline. You can see your public Timeline by pressing the arrow next to the Activity Log on the top right corner on your Timeline, and selecting "View As." Then you can input your Friend's names to see what they see. If you realize a particular post shouldn't be in the Public arena, click on the People icon to the right of its date stamp to retroactively limit it to Friends only or specific lists of people. Also, clicking on the Pencil icon that appears when you hover over a Timeline post gives you options to delete it outright or hide it from your Timeline.
Facebook's privacy settings page includes a feature that allows you to change all of your past "Public" or "Friends of Friends" posts to just "Friends," as well. Look for it under the "Limit the Audience for Past Posts" section.
Limiting the audience for new posts
Hiding new posts from the public eye is a snap. While you're busy typing a post out, just click on the People icon in the bottom-right corner of the box (next to the Post button) and select who you want to share it with. If you don't want the whole world to see it, select "Friends." To avoid the hassle of doing that with every post, you can permanently set your sharing option in the "Control Your Default Privacy" section of Facebook's privacy settings.
Open Graph sharing
Facebook calls the ability for Open Graph apps to automatically post updates about your online activities "frictionless sharing;" some users just call it annoying. If you fall into the latter camp, it's worth noting that the apps are fully opt-in. When you install an Open Graph app, it tells you exactly what it will access and do. If you don't want the app spamming your Friends, simply select the "App activity privacy" box, then choose "Only me." A variety of Open Graph apps are available for download: Facebook has a full list, which includes eBay, TripAdvisor and Rotten Tomatoes.
But what if previously installed apps are already cluttering your Friends' tickers with info about Spotify songs you rock out to? You can change an app's permissions at any time. Just head into the now-familiar privacy settings, click "Edit settings" in the "Apps and Websites" portion, click "Edit settings" again in the "Apps you use" section, and then finally click "Edit" next to the offending Open Graph app. Here, you can change the permissions you've granted to the app, including the "App activity privacy" settings. We'd also recommend deleting an app's ability to "Add app activity to your Timeline" if you decide to go this route. You can also remove individual apps entirely if you so desire.
Should you even be worried?
That's up to you; some people won't mind Open Graph apps sharing their every move, while others will hate it. Some will resent that their feeds are getting cluttered up by "Jane read this" and "Jack watched that." What's your opinion? Do you like this new Facebook? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.