Facebook Kills Privacy Setting That Was Probably Already Dead to You

Josh WolfordSocial Media

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Starting today, you will no longer be able to hide from other Facebook users in search. That means that your profile will always be visible in Graph Search, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Ok, let's back up a bit. I don't mean to scare you. In reality, you probably didn't know that the option to hide from Facebook search even existed - and even if you did, there's a pretty big chance Facebook already stripped you of the option last December.

No, this isn't some catastrophic change in Facebook privacy settings, and it probably won't affect that many users. It's simply Facebook cleaning house, and making good on a promise to remove this feature for all users at some point.

Before last December, every Facebook user had the option to hide themselves from Facebook search by tweaking a setting called "who can look up your timeline by name?" Then, in a round of sweeping privacy changes, Facebook removed that ability for most users - as they put it, the ones who weren't even using it. They also said that in the future, they'd be removing it for everyone.

A few weeks later, Facebook unveiled Graph Search. Probably not a coincidence.

Here's what Facebook had to say when they first announced that they would be nixing the option:

Facebook started as a directory service for college students, and today we offer a whole variety of services, such as news feed, photo uploads and mobile messaging. As our services have evolved, our settings have, too.

Everyone used to have a setting called “Who can look up my timeline by name,” which controlled if someone could be found when other people typed their name into the Facebook search bar. The setting was very limited in scope, and didn’t prevent people from finding others in many other ways across the site.

Because of the limited nature of the setting, we removed it for people who weren’t using it, and have built new, contextual tools, along with education about how to use them. In the coming weeks, we’ll be retiring this setting for the small percentage of people who still have it.

It took more than a few weeks, but now Facebook has officially removed the option for all users that still had it selected - which probably isn't that many users to be quite honest.

Today, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Michael Richter explains why the now-defunct privacy feature wasn't really that good of a privacy feature anyway.

"The setting was created when Facebook was a simple directory of profiles and it was very limited. For example, it didn’t prevent people from navigating to your Timeline by clicking your name in a story in News Feed, or from a mutual friend’s Timeline. Today, people can also search Facebook using Graph Search (for example, "People who live in Seattle,") making it even more important to control the privacy of the things you share rather than how people get to your Timeline," he says.

"The setting also 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."

Still, behind the PR'ing - Facebook knows that Graph Search will only work (properly) if users aren't obscured from it. Duh.

Ok, so what now? Well, your best bet is always to limit your content's audience, either by blunt instrument or by a fine blade. If you're looking for tips, I can help you over here.

Image via Facebook

Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf