Facebook’s Timeline interface is currently been rolled out across all users whether they want it or not. In this blog post I hope to provide Facebook users with advice on protecting their privacy before their Timeline goes live.

Facebook has long been a source of information for employers checking the background on potential and current employees and making sure that social media policies are not being over-stepped with
derogatory comments.

Once Timeline is enabled, Facebook users receive a Timeline page which scrolls down to reveal key information shared since they joined the online community. Click on a chosen year and you can view everything the user did in that particular year – good and bad!

For employees, I would strongly recommend a quick check back through their Timeline during the seven day preview period that is allowed once Timeline is enabled and before it goes live. Comments and posts that may not be viewed in the best light by employers can quickly be deleted alongside photography and information that may not present users in the best light.

In general we advise employers not to look at social media pages unless they have got a particular suspicion about an employee. If you don’t need to look then you should not really be fishing. In addition, in most cases what are employers actually going to learn? Companies are unlikely to be able to dismiss or discipline someone who likes to go out and have a few drinks at the weekend unless it actually impacts on their day job.

The other obvious potential issue of Timeline for employers would be if they found a post which is several years old and breached their social media policy. However, as it was not picked up on at the time it was originally posted, the employee may well argue that it is now too late to take action fairly.

Equally, for those seeking employment it is worth ensuring the Timeline presents them in a way that will appeal to prospective employers. Be wary of any inflammatory comments or colourful past behaviour which may dent otherwise gleaming professional records. Employers are increasingly using online communities such as Facebook and LinkedIn to research candidates so it is worth investing time in ensuring Timeline presents a positive profile.

As well as the personal angle, businesses using Facebook profiles to promote their companies will also have to consider the impact of Timeline. Customer complaints or negative posts could make an untimely reappearance in the Timeline. The new feature will also make it harder to consign adverse publicity to history, especially if others are keen to keep it alive. Again, these issues can all be managed and averted but better to do so before the interface goes live and impacts on any current marketing campaigns.

Most importantly, users should reassess the privacy settings on their Facebook profiles before their Timeline goes live. The audience for old posts that appear on the Timeline can be limited and there is even the option to individually change the audience of each post if required.

While Timeline makes Facebook history more immediately visible than before, it is not sharing any content that couldn’t previously have been found. It is therefore the responsibility of users to ensure they have the correct privacy levels set and manage the information shared on their Timeline as they see fit.