If you care to keep your past in the past, Facebook's new version of the profile, called Timeline, makes that a little more difficult.
After several months in a limited-release beta, Facebook announced today that it is now available to everyone.
To switch to the new profile, go to Facebook's Introducing Timeline page and click "Get It Now." Otherwise, you can wait until you see an announcement with instructions at the top of your profile.
With Timeline, every status update, wall post and photo ever posted since the day you joined Facebook becomes easily searchable to you and your friends. For many—early adopters especially—dredging up the past for all to see could be a privacy nightmare.
When you or Facebook migrates your account to the new Timeline, you'll have one week to make adjustments to your past posts and privacy settings before your Timeline will go live for everyone to see. You can publish your Timeline yourself anytime within the seven-day waiting period.
Here's a look at what your options are for adjusting your settings, based on the level of privacy you want to achieve.
1. How to make all posts friends-only.
It's possible that your past posts have varied privacy settings based on when they were posted. One way—the easiest of them all—is to use one of the blanket privacy settings introduced not long ago: "Limit the Audience for past Posts."
You'll find this option near the bottom of your Privacy Settings page.
If you decide to use this option, the content on your Timeline that you've shared with more than your friends—such as public posts—will automatically change to Friends only. With this setting, though, people who are tagged and their friends will still be able to see the post.
2. Limit the posts by others on your timeline.
Another way to hide past posts is to limit specific people or lists of people from viewing what others have posted to your wall. To do this, go to your Privacy Settings page, then select "Edit Settings" next to "How You Connect." Select the drop-down menu next to the last item—"Who can see posts by others on your timeline?" and choose "Custom."
In the box under "Hide this from," type the names of the people or the lists that you want to exclude from viewing posts from others on your wall, for example those on your Limited Profile list. Then click Save Changes.
3. Edit every post manually.
I wouldn't recommend this option to anyone—especially those who have been Facebook users for several years—because of how time-consuming it could be.
Your Timeline lets you search by the year, which breaks down into months. Hover over a story in the Timeline to hide a particular one—this means that no one will be able to see it.
While this is a tedious process, it does appear it's the only way to ensure you're hiding exactly what you want from the people you want.
And there's always the "View Profile As" feature, which shows you what others see when they look at your profile.
To find this feature after you've migrated to the new Timeline, click the gear icon on the right, below your cover photo, then click "View As..." from the drop-down menu. To preview how your profile appears to the public, click the link in the text, or type a person's name into the field and click enter.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org