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It's True, You Can't Hide From Facebook Search Anymore


Is it true that Facebook is removing the search privacy setting so anyone can find anyone on Facebook now?

- D


This question was answered on October 10, 2013. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

This change is bound to generate a flurry of misinformation on Facebook , so I’m glad we have a chance to explain the actual change to hopefully head off any misplaced hysteria.

Facebook is in fact removing what they call an old privacy feature called “Who can look up your Timeline by name”, which they actually started doing last year.

It was removed last year for people who weren’t using the setting, so if you don’t have this option in the “Who can look me up?” section of your Privacy Settings now, then you haven’t been using the feature anyway.

This setting would essentially allow you to hide from searches performed by anyone that you were not friends with (or friends of friends), but according to Facebook, very few people used it.

This setting only applied to Search, so there was nothing to keep people you didn’t know from clicking on your name in a post to jump onto your Timeline.

Facebook‘s blog explains one of the reasons for the change:
“The setting  made Facebook's search feature feel broken at times. For example, people told us that they found it confusing when they tried looking for someone who they knew personally and couldn't find them in search results, or when two people were in a Facebook Group and then couldn't find each other through search.”

The small percentage of users still using the setting will see reminders about it being removed over the next couple of weeks.

Facebook has been transitioning to their new Graph Search which allows for more natural language searches like “restaurants my friends like in Paris” or “photos that I like” so they are phasing out settings that would impede this new way of searching.

When they announced this change last year, they also introduced the ability to control posts so you could decide when to share things publicly, with friends or friends of friends on an individual basis.

You most likely aren’t affected by this change, but it does serve as another wakeup call that you should review your privacy settings in Facebook on a regular basis (I recommend every month or two for active users that share a lot of posts).

I must remind all Facebook users of two things: We the users are the product, not the customer and Facebook is now a publicly traded company, so they are more focused on monetizing the network.

If you are concerned about things you posted in the past, there is a quick way to limit the audience of everything you’ve posted in the past. Click on the image of the gear in the upper-right corner of your Profile, then on ‘Privacy Settings’.

In the “Who can see my stuff” section, you can change the default setting for future posts, review all your posts and things you’re tagged in using the Activity Log or limit who can see your past posts.

We are likely going to see the usual “copy/paste zombies” warning people that Facebook is allowing anyone to see anything or other such nonsense because of this, so feel free to point those folks to this column and a video we created to fight copy/paste zombies:

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on October 10, 2013