So it's almost time to dust off the old new year's resolutions, work out how many you kept (I kept all of mine for the first time), and then set some more to take you into 2012. But if I may I'd like to offer up a suggestion, and that is that you go into 2012 with a clean social networking profile.
So what do I mean by this and why? Well times are still hard and for all those people struggling in their jobs, or struggling even to find work after being made redundant employers are increasingly searching Facebook and Twitter for clues as to the types of people that they are hiring or that are already working for them. Couple this with the fact that Twitter is and has always been completely public, and that Facebook seems to find ever increasing ways to make everything you say and post publicly available, and you could find yourself going into the new year with a problem.
I've recently gone through my Facebook account and deleted all the photo libraries I put online this year from holidays and days out. Let's face it, each of these were only supposed to have been there for a few days, a couple of weeks at the most, so that my other friends could catch up with what had been going on but nobody would have looked at them since. I'm extremely careful about what I put on Facebook, for instance I tend to avoid photos where I've had too much to drink (though the obligatory Saint Patrick's day hat photo will always remain a notable exception!) but even so it's wise to be cautious.
Facebook are currently rolling out their new Timeline feature that they dub "a new kind of profile".
Timeline is wider than your old profile, and it's a lot more visual. The first thing you'll notice is the giant photo right at the top. This is your cover, and it's completely up to you which of your photos you put here. As you scroll down past your cover, you'll see your posts, photos and life events as they happened in time. You choose what's featured on your timeline. You can star your favorites to double their size or hide things altogether.
In short Facebook want everybody's profile to be a complete history of their lives and do you really want all of this information available to everybody, and trust Facebook to keep it secret? This is why I highly recommend not just removing old photos but modifying your status history as well. Not that long ago Facebook offered a new feature that can be found in your Privacy settings called Limit the Audience for Past Posts. Here you can control your privacy better for all the things you have said in the past, some of which you may not be completely proud of. All of this is in the name of being constantly careful and vigilant about the company's proclivity to make everything public as often as they can.
With Twitter it's different because everything is already public. Deleting old Tweets is a laborious process of removing them one at a time (I have almost 7,000 tweets in my account and don't want to face that!) but some tools such as TwitWipe are available to plug the gap. This and similar services will completely wipe your Twitter history, enabling you to start from scratch with a clean bill of health. That means the next time someone does a search online for your Twitter handle and the word "drunk" nothing will appear in the results.
Personal privacy is something we're giving up more and more as we get involved with social networks and companies that trade online, but it's such an important thing to guard. Making sure that my privacy is maintained online will certainly be one of my resolutions for 2012, will you make it one of yours?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.