New Facebook Profiles: What You Need to Know

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Facebook’s new profile is now being rolled out to all users. The new design has already given some an artistic new way to express themselves. But to the millions of us who rely on Facebook even more than email for digital communication, any change on Facebook leaves us wondering: What’s the catch?

The new profile doesn’t create any NEW privacy problems. However, it does take one existing privacy problem and make it more annoying.

Here’s what you need to know now:

1. Your privacy settings haven’t changed. But you should check out how your new profile looks.
The same people can see the same things. However, certain information—your birthday, education and professional experience—and the pictures you’re tagged in will be much more prominent in your new profile.

You can quickly hide these photos and information, or, with a little effort, adjust your settings so only you can see them. But once you have the new profile, you should go to Account > Privacy Settings> Under  “Connecting on Facebook” click “View settings”> Click on “Preview My Profile” to see how most people see you.

2. Facebook’s photo and video tagging is annoying. And now that is more obvious.
The only way to stop a Facebook friend from tagging you in a photo is to unfriend that friend. With the old profile, you probably didn’t notice or care about this feature. You’d get an alert that you’ve been tagged in a photo and that a photo you were tagged-in had received a comment. Some users tag their friends in an image they are not in just to get them to look at and comment on said image. Some users tag friends in silly or gross images as a joke. Basically it’s an unsecured feature that is easily hacked for fun/mockery.

And the potential annoyance of this tagging tool wasn’t a big deal until Facebook put tagged photos at the top of your profile. Now, one funny or chemically imbalanced friend can decorate your profile with ridiculous images.

So now you have three choices:
a.
BEST CHOICE: Only friend those whom you really trust.

b. Customize your privacy settings for “Photos and videos I’m tagged in” to “Only Me”.
To do this go to Account > Privacy Settings> Click on “Customize Settings”> Under “Things other share” and “Photos and videos I’m tagged in”, click “Edit Settings”> Under “Who can see photos and videos I’m tagged in” select “Customize” then “Only Me”. You can also exclude certain friends. But if you do that, you may end up having to find this stupid setting again.

c. Use Facebook Groups. But this is complex and not foolproof.

Allowing users to tag their friends is a unique feature that has helped Facebook become the world’s largest photo sharing site. This feature will probably never be eliminated. However, Facebook could make opting out of it much simpler. A good model would be what Facebook did with Facebook Places. The first time a friend tagged you in a Place, Facebook asked if you wanted to allow friends to tag you. (Another method would be to allow users to block certain friends from tagging them in photos or videos. But this is again complex and not foolproof.)

3. Your birthday is now more obvious, so please do not use it as a password ever for anything.
Facebook has taken one of our prime identifying pieces of personal information and made it a minor holiday. Even if you don’t allow anyone but friends to see your birthday on Facebook, your birthday messages may show up on your profile and in friends of friends’ Top News—especially if you and your friends broadcast your activity.

So, fine. People know when you’re born. That would be fine, if there weren’t potentially millions of people using their birthdays as PIN numbers for their ATM cards. Here’s a simple system for creating and remembering strong passwords.

4. You may want to hide your work and education experience.

Your “experience” is now at the top of your profile. If for any reason you would like to keep this professional  information from being so prominent in your online life, you need to change your sharing settings to “Friends Only” in general go to Account > Privacy Settings> Under  “Connecting on Facebook” click “View settings”>  Under “See your education and work” you select “Customize” then “Only Me”.

5. Facebook is taking on LinkedIn (and possibly another new Google social network.)
You don’t have to be THE social media guru to figure out Facebook’s master plan. Not only do they want to integrate Facebook into every aspect of the web, they want your Facebook profile to be your ONE profile on the web.

To make your profile central to your web identity, Facebook has stay ahead of potential competitors like Google (the search engine giant is rumored to be launching some sort of direct Facebook competitor and 2011) and to replace (or absorb) any existing sites that might offer an alternative to Facebook.

Now that MySpace lost, it seems Facebook’s next target is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a virtual resume/business networking tool for about 50 million people around the globe. Facebook’s new profile seeks to make your profile into more of a business card—not quite a résumé, yet. But it’s clear that Mark Zuckerberg and his crew recognize the value of making Facebook valuable to your professional needs, and Facebook’s audience is getting a little older (and more professional) every day.

Facebook’s new profile emphasizes Facebook’s dominating strength— photos—while revealing its strategy for the future. If you’re going to keep using Facebook, as a half a billion “friends” do, it’s always worth spending a little time thinking about how Facebook sees you.

Look out for those tagged photos,

Jason

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