Facebook is removing the privacy setting “Who can look up your timeline by name or contact info?” and notifying users who’s profiles are hidden that they will now be searchable.
They had already removed the setting in December for users who were not using it. The company’s intention it to push its users into using privacy controls on their individual content. There is no one click opt-out from Facebook search. Some privacy experts say that Facebook should offer a universal privacy control to allow opting out of searches and not a myriad of weaker, individual controls.
When the company introduced their new “Graph Search” earlier this year, the ability for someone’s profile to be found was dramatically increased. This new search functionality allowed each piece of a user’s profile information to be searched. This will also include a user’s content in the future. The “Who can look up your timeline by name or contact info?” privacy setting technically gave some users a false sense of security, because if they list any information in their profile publicly, they would be searchable via that.
Over the next few months, any user who has the privacy setting turned on to disable being searched for by name will see an announcement at the top of their Facebook page with an explanation of the changes. The user is asked to confirm their understanding of the change before the option will actually disappear from their settings and the profile made searchable by name.
Once this change has been made to an account, the only way to remain hidden will be to manually control the privacy setting for each piece of information in a user’s profile.
Essentially, a user would have to go through every piece of personal information in their “About” section and adjust is visibility to the desired setting (Public, Friends, Only Me, Custom).
Certainly Facebook could provide an option to lock down all your personal information just as they do for your old posts. They could also provide a way to opt-out of showing up in searches. They chose not to provide this because Facebook has a responsibility to make money for its investors. They must do this while remaining committed to keeping its users data private. They want their search mechanism to provide comprehensive results so that friends can find each other. When they do, Facebook wants user engagement and ad views that these friendships will generate through news feeds.
Is Facebook protecting access to these privacy settings by sacrificing consumer choice? What are your thoughts?