As of today, you can no longer avoid Facebook's new profile design; the social network is forcing everyone to upgrade. This means, in many cases, that others can put embarrassing pictures on top of your profile unless you change things.
The new profiles aggregate a lightning summary of who you are at the top of your profile page: Where you work, where you went to college, where you live, who your special someone is, where you grew up, etc. It's basically how you might introduce yourself to a stranger at a party, especially if you're a geeky computer scientist working at Facebook. This feature is a reasonable step for a social network evolving from college cliques to the sprawling social networks of 500 million users.
The big controversy comes from the panel of photos featured right under your lightning summary, since those are culled partly from photos in which you've been tagged by other people. Facebook has never given tagged photos this much prominence before; in the past you'd have to click through to a photo page to see those, or closely follow someone's wall.
Critics are flooding Facebook's blog comments with complaints and requests to be allowed to opt out of the new profiles, which until today were only activated by users on a voluntary basis. "The tagged pics things SUCK!" writes one of the top 20 comments. Another: "Tagged photos not the best choice... Last thing I need is someone who is ticked at me to tag me in something that could offend someone." Other users chimed with replies like, "got that right" and "yes... It shouldn't be tagged photos should be ones you yourself uploaded !!!!"
Other people complain that status updates have been pushed too far down the profile page, the loss of certain video links, and a lot of general "the new profiles suck" sentiment.
Although you can no longer avoid using the new profile design, one thing you can control is who can see photos in which you've been tagged. People tend to leave these settings pretty loose, especially since tagged photos used to be more obscure. If you're worried about an embarrassing picture going to the top of your profile, consider tightening your photo tagging privacy settings, like so:
Go to your Facebook menu, select "Privacy Setttings." The Facebook menu is in the upper right corner of your profile.
Click "Customize settings" near the bottom center of your privacy page.
Scroll to the "Things others share" section, "Photos and videos I'm tagged in" item, and click "Edit Settings.
Select "Friends Only," "Only Me," "Specific People" — whatever you are comfortable with. Another option is "Friends of friends," but this will share your tagged pictures pretty widely.
Click "Save Setting."
Optional: Change profile picture settings. Another option is to tighten up people who can see your profile pictures, an option available here:
Now you're done! It is now a little bit harder for other people to embarrass you on Facebook. Now you'll just have to focus on embarrassing yourself.
[Photo, top, via Getty Images]