If you didn't watch Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook announcements last week â€” and of course the vast majority of Facebook users did not â€” you may be in for a surprise. Aside from the dramatically redesigned Facebook Timeline profile pages, which roll out in the coming weeks (and which I've grown to love), Facebook's new system to auto-share what you do around the web may catch many Facebook addicts off guard.
In fact, even those people who know exactly how this new feature works may need to be on guard against sharing some seriously embarrassing updates.
For those not in the loop: Facebook is making sharing even easier by automatically sharing what you're doing on Facebook-connected apps. Instead of having to "Like" something to share it, you'll just need to click "Add to Timeline" on any website or app, and that app will have permission to share your activity with your Facebook friends.
What activity, you ask? It could be the news articles you read online, the videos you watch, the photos you view, the music you listen to, or any other action within the site or app. Facebook calls this auto-sharing "Gestures."
Can you see the possible issue here?
I'm pretty familiar with this auto-sharing function since it's been a feature of The Huffington Post for a good while now. The way it works there: Once you join the site, every article you read is shared with your friends via an activity feed (unless you switch that feature off).
So right now I can see that someone I know professionally read "Scarlett Johansson Nude Photos" and a male colleague, who will remain anonymous, recently read the following:
1. "Conan O'Brien Stares At Nicole Scherzinger's Cleavage"
2. "Heather Morris On Breast Implants"
3. "Perrey Reeves Shows Off Bikini Body (PHOTO)"
Now Facebook is bringing this functionality to every application out there.
I'm not saying this is a bad idea as such, but people need to be aware of what they're signing up for when they add apps to the Timeline. Even my tech-savvy friends seem to set up these auto-share apps, completely forget about them, and return to doing things they wouldn't necessarily want to share with all their friends.
Heck, I even find myself doing it.
Just a few days ago I added the Washington Post Social Reader app to my profile â€” this is one of many new news apps that auto-shares what you're reading with your friends. Later, I returned to the app, forgot about that feature, read a ton of articles and realized they were all on my Facebook Timeline.
Now I didn't read anything particularly saucy like my HuffPo friends did, but even that slight lapse was enough for me to uninstall the app completely.
So what can you do to avoid a Facebook privacy faux pas? Be aware that whenever you click a "Add to Timeline" button on a website or app from now on, you're giving that app permission to post your activity to Facebook.
Most of the time you might be fine with this â€” like sharing the music you listen to on Spotify with friends (unless you like Rebecca Black) â€” but other times it might be worth disabling this function after you approve the app.
Also note that when you add an app to your Timeline, you get the option to share your activity with "Public," "Friends" or "Custom." By clicking "Custom," you get the option to hide your activity from everyone but yourself â€” see the steps below for more information on controlling your privacy with the new sharing features:
If you click "Custom", you get more privacy options, including the ability to block certain people from seeing your activity.
Only Me Privacy
If you feel uncomfortable sharing your activity from the app, you can select "Only Me". This means that your will see your activity from the app on your Timeline, but no one else will.
Should you worry about Facebook's new Gestures functionality? No, but even the most technical among us should be aware that sharing everything is not always wise, and that selecting the right privacy settings can protect you against any mistakes.
Author: / Posted: 29-09-2011