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In the news - Facebook timeline

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Hajar Javaheri Hajar Javaheri | 11:40 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

If you joined Facebook as an adult, then the news that 'timeline' will soon become a mandatory feature on all profiles hopefully isn't giving you too much cause for concern. If, however, like me you joined as an angst-ridden 19 year-old with no understanding of netiquette, you may be shaking in fear at what might be uncovered!

The timeline is a new form of the Facebook profile where users can upload a large header image, resize their posts and – the scary part for most – look through month and year subheadings to easily access all their posts and statuses since joining the social network.

It's an option that's been available to users since December, and anyone signing up is given seven days to organise their profile by deleting certain items or tightening privacy settings. When the change is enforced across the whole site (a closely guarded secret - but soon), all users will have a week to spring-clean before it switches automatically.

Of course, in terms of privacy the new timeline isn't that different to the old profile format. If you have a lot of time on your hands and are desperately interested in knowing all about someone, you can trudge on through older updates until eight hours later you're at their very first post ('So, how do I use this thing?') and, still in your pyjamas, have realised that you've forgotten to go to work that day.

The difference with the timeline is that this information is easier to access, hence the global firm is giving users enough warning to think about how much of their online past they want to keep visible.

When you sign up to having the timeline, you can either limit past posts in one fell swoop by going to your privacy settings and clicking 'Manage past post visibility' or you can go to your profile and select Activity Log and decide what posts from a specific year or month you want to delete or increase privacy settings for.

Facebook has provided lots of information in its help section for people making the switch to the timeline profile.

The social media giant may well be facing its own privacy conundrum if it confirms rumours that it's set to launch on the public stock market with a value of $100bn. If they go through with it, Facebook would have to disclose a great deal of financial data and performance figures in order to, like its 800 million users, change its profile.

If you're still apprehensive about the timeline and how to stay safe online, find out more about internet safety on WebWise's Share Take Care minisite.

Hajar is a regular contributor to the WebWise blog and has also made award-winning programmes for BBC Radio. In her spare time she loves reading, writing and singing.

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