No more hiding: Facebook makes every account searchable

Facebook announced the retirement of a security feature that allowed users to remove their name from Facebook search, sparking concerns among users and privacy advocates.

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    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg listens to a question after introducing a new feature called Graph Search during a media event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Jan. 15.
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Think you’re unsearchable on Facebook? Think again.

Facebook announced Thursday the social network it is getting rid of the “Who can look up your Timeline by name?” privacy feature, meaning any user can be found when searched by name. Facebook says this provides users more autonomy over individual posts, but privacy advocates say this opens social networkers up to unprecedented exposure.

“Who can look up your Timeline by name?” essentially acted as a safeguard for anyone who didn’t want to be searchable via Facebook’s search. If they said “no one” could look them up by name, then no one, not even people in the same networks or groups would be able to find them via search. Facebook says this caused confusion and difficulty in finding people that should have been easier to find. Besides that, people could still be found if they posted on someone else’s wall or their name ended up on someone’s timeline.

Recommended: Five ways to protect yourself from government surveillance

Only a “small percent” of accounts used the feature, according to Facebook. Now, the company has disabled the feature for the remaining users, who will be notified of the change the next time they log in. Facebook declined to say what exactly a “small percent” is, but with more than 1.1 billion users worldwide even five percent of users is over 50 million.

This move comes on the heels of Facebook rolling out its new sophisticated-search function Graph Search, which allow users to search by subject or location (search: People who live in Chicago). Facebook says this makes it even more important for users to focus on the privacy of individual posts, rather than overall profile privacy.

This move has gotten mixed results from the Facebook community (which now comprises one-sixth of the known world). Those on Facebook’s side say the move is good because users now have more control over individual posts, and Facebook can be used more on a case-by-case basis. You probably don’t want your bosses seeing an unruly photo album, but you might like them to see that post on marketing strategies. You can now simply click the lock button and decide whether you want to share a post publicly or just with friends – pick and choose privacy. Those wary of Facebook’s changes say this move is a coordinated effort to make profiles more public, a push to make users more susceptible to ads and data tracking, and an online safety concern. What about those wanting to hide from stalkers, cyber bullies, or strangers?  They may find themselves better off deleting their profile altogether.

Facebook offers a few options for keeping things private now that the switch has been made:

1. Share each post with the people you want to be able to see it. You control this every time you post.

2. Use Activity Log to review individual things you’ve already shared. Here you can delete things you may not want to appear on Facebook anymore, untag photos and change the privacy of past posts.

3. Ask friends and others to remove anything they may have shared about you that you don’t want on the site. You can do this by reaching out to the person directly, or using the reporting feature, also available in Activity Log.

Plus, users can click the privacy button in the upper right corner of a Timeline (it looks like a little lock) and double check all privacy settings, or if the new search functions prove too invasive users can always delete their profile.

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