Facebook poised to dredge up your embarrassing past

Get ready for some headaches and possibly a lot of legwork adjusting to the shiny and ambitious new Facebook Timeline feature and other sharing options being rolled out this week.

Users probably are just getting used to the last round of changes to privacy and user settings made by the giant social network several weeks ago. But the new Timeline is the latest and greatest—and probably one of the most anxiety-producing -- changes to date because it will make past content posted on Facebook pages much more readily accessible.

With Timeline, users will have more options for displaying their photographs and content. At the same time, the Timeline applications allows for much greater accessibility to previously-posted content.

Yes, that means that embarrassing photo of a year ago thought to have been forgotten, or those late-night after-party comments from two years ago, will be in full view again for Facebook friends in the Timeline feature. For federal employees, that means comments you made years ago -- perhaps before you were hired or got your current security clearance -- might come back to haunt you. For agency managers concerned about official agency pages, it means at a minimum a new layer of security concerns and management tools to learn.

“Until now, profile visitors could only go back in time to a minor degree to see what was posted,” commented blogger Kirby Plessas in an entry on Oct. 13. “People change their minds and opinions, (and what) they may have had two years ago may no longer be valid, or what seemed funny back then might not seem funny now.”

There also are modifications in how Facebook application information will be shared on the site, among other revisions in Facebook settings expected to be rolled out on Oct. 19 or thereabouts.

Fortunately, there is guidance available on how to navigate the new Timeline and how to disable the new Timeline if necessary.

Another option is to do the legwork and make the privacy changes to the Timeline that protect your information. Blogger Angela Alcorn offers some tips on how to do this in a recent blog entry. The Mashable website also offers tips and tricks for how to best use the new feature in a recent article. Computer-savvy users may wish to set up a developer account before the official launch to get a handle on some of the features. Here are some blogger tips on how to do that.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jan 31, 2012

Everyone has skeleton in their closets. No one is perfect. If it comes back to haunt you, get a waiver!

Wed, Oct 19, 2011

There's an easy solution for folks who are afraid of their past - close out your Faceboock account!

Tue, Oct 18, 2011 Hans

That disable option is only for people who already have Timeline. Once rolled out to everyone, it will no longer work.

Tue, Oct 18, 2011 Rick

Facebook is just a recently popular social forum. The internet has always provided various methods of retrieving old content. Implementing this timeline feature on Facebook just makes it easier. Folks need to be aware that anything they post online is in the public view, and can come back to haunt them years down the road. With the popularization of social media, many people have used it like a semi-private bulletin board, without realizing it is open and available to all. This can (and I expect already does) affect many people. Right now, I know of a number of corporations that routinely check the social media during pre-employment checks, and periodically after they employ someone. Say something bad about your company or agency, and it can only hurt you down the road. Even relatively innocent remarks can be taken out of context and be trouble later on. --- Wake up folks, Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg here...

Tue, Oct 18, 2011

Shrug. I tell the kids around here to be careful what they post, lest it come back to bite them next time their security clearance is up for renewal, or when they are applying for a different gov or civilian job. But do they listen? Of course not.I reluctantly joined FB to avoid being labeled 'antisocial', but I NEVER put anything out there that couldn't safely be printed in a public newspaper.

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