Ready for big privacy concerns? Facebook has disabled opting-out from timeline search

Facebook has quietly disabled opting out of being visible in Graph Search. As user timelines can now more easily be searched, will this result in big privacy concerns for the social network?

Facebook NSA PRISM Ready for big privacy concerns? Facebook has disabled opting out from timeline search

Social networking comes with conveniences, such as the ability to keep track of your friends’ and acquaintances’ lives. However, the negative side is that social networking also enables online stalking and even bullying. With Facebook’s Graph Search functionality, stalking someone online has become easier, because of the searchability of photos, posts and other updates.

To some extent, Facebook’s search feature is limited, and not all users are easily searchable. This is especially true if users have opted out of being visible on Open Graph. A recent change quietly instituted by Facebook, however, will result in users being visible to anyone searching for them. The only limiting factor now is if one has explicitly added someone to his or her blacklist.

Facebook previously enabled an option for users to disable name searching through an item on their privacy settings called, “who can look up your Timeline by name?”. However, the social network has deemed this to be inadequate or even limited, to some extent. For example, this did not prevent users from finding one’s timeline by clicking on his or her name in a news feed story or tagged photo. Additionally, this made the search function look broken. “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,” wrote chief privacy officer Michael Richter.

Given these concerns, Facebook has determined that it is more important to limit the visibility of your content — posts, photos, status updates, and the like — rather than your name and account itself. Richter says that “[t]he best way to control what people can find about you is to choose the audience of the individual things you share.”

Users who have previously opted out will get a message about the change. Users will also get tips about the privacy settings of each post, to remind them of privacy settings.

For now, Facebook advises users to ensure the correct privacy setting for each piece of content, and to review one’s Activity Log for any unwanted public information (such as third-party tags). The social network also advises that users ask friends to remove unwanted content or to use the “report” feature. For concerns about past postings, one can also limit the visibility of all past posts.

Will this update result in privacy concerns? Perhaps this is also a gentle reminder for social network users to be more mindful of the things being shared online.

Source: Facebook Newsroom

J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise applications and services. He is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team.