ferretYour online privacy just got shot to hell.

Excuse my language, but unless you take precautions right after you’re done sharing this post your most private web browsing habits will be laid bare before the entire world. Here’s why:

Facebook just announced major changes to their Timeline.

I didn’t pay too much attention when they announced it Wednesday night because it all sounds like more of the same fun and games I’ve grown used to seeing over the 6 1/2 years that I’ve been on Facebook. Perhaps like you, I didn’t pay much attention until I interviewed Graham Cluley just now for my Online Reputation Management for Dummies book. He’s an internet security expert at Naked Security and contributor to the BBC College of Journalism.

Picture this, if you will:

Let’s say you have a secret passion for something a little eyebrow raising, like juggling ferrets.

In between appointments on a coffee break you wander over to Pinterest, Tumblr, or a blog dedicated to the art and whimsy of ferret juggling. You like the clever costumes they make for the ferrets there and the in-depth articles about the finer points of ferret training, ferret treat recipes, and custom themed holiday cards featuring their pictures. You follow a link to another ferret juggling site and find yourself looking at flaming juggling ferrets. They have flame proof costumes, but nobody else knows that. It looks wrong.

It FEELS like it’s just you and your computer screen in front of you having a look at those flaming ferrets flying through the air.

It FEELS like you’re just sharing a moment with other ferret jugglers. In truth, you’ve not only gotten your ferret fix for the afternoon, you’ve just notified the world via Facebook about exactly what you were reading, post by flaming post, and what images you clicked on. Even that organic ferret treat recipe made the list. duck soup for ferrets?!

Facebook calls it “Frictionless Sharing.”

From now on, unless you specifically opt-out on a site by site basis (like the New York Times), the posts your read and the images you click on will be seamlessly posted to your Facebook Timeline without your even being aware of it. It’s automatic.

Depending on your Facebook privacy settings, your boss and clients can now see your browsing habits in real time.

Pack up your desk, because somebody’s going home! Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you’ve just exposed yourself to a lot of potential embarassment. At the very least, you’re putting out a lot of boring noise on your Facebook feed and inconsistent branding. Nobody with good intentions really wants to know about your medical conditions and ferret juggling addiction. It’s just not appropriate to put out there on the internet for all time. Because make no mistake, once posted it’s searchable forever.

How to browse ferret juggling sites privately:

Log off from Facebook!!

So far, even if you’re logged onto Facebook via your smart phone or tablet device, you’re safe to log out on your desktop and browse from there. Don’t “like,” “recommend,” or “share” any ferret juggling sites or else you’ve just posted them for sure. I’m being light-hearted by using ferret juggling as an example, but consider the following:

  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Sexy stuff
  • Alternate lifestyle stuff
  • Racially insensitive stuff

What if you accidentally find yourself looking at an objectionable picture? Suddenly your reputation is linked to it via Facebook because it appears on your timeline. Even if you delete it immediately that association is already out there and can never be subtracted from the internet.

Boys and Girls, I care way too much about you to let you wander into those shark infested waters without throwing you lifeline. To reiterate:

Log off from Facebook unless you’re using it right now!!

Thank you! This has been a public service announcement from Social Media Design. Please, please “like,” “recommend,” and “share” it with your friends and colleagues. This is reputation saving information for everybody. Please let us know what you think with a comment below.


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Photo credit: Stinky Pete’s Ferret Retreat.