In a matter of weeks, everyone on Facebook will be searchable by name. But you’ll still have ways to control who sees your content, as long as you can navigate Facebook’s web of privacy controls.
Facebook is pulling the plug on a setting that allowed people to prevent others from finding them by name using the Facebook search bar, the company said on Thursday. The setting was actually removed last year for people who weren’t using it, but it was left in place for those who were.
Not any longer. The setting will disappear for all users in the coming weeks, Facebook said. People still using the setting will see a notice on their homepage alerting them that it will soon be going away. Less than 10 percent of Facebook’s 1 billion-plus users were still using the setting, according to a Facebook spokeswoman.
Its disappearance means Facebook users will no longer have a way to prevent people from finding their Timeline on the site.
Facebook says it’s removing the setting because it’s not as useful as it once was. It was created at a time when Facebook was built more around profiles than content, the company said, and it didn’t work perfectly anyway. People could still find you by clicking your name in a News Feed story, for instance, or in a mutual friend’s Timeline.
So instead of keeping the feature around, Facebook is putting more emphasis on the tools that let people control who can see what they post on the site. “The best way to control what people can find about you is to choose the audience of the individual things you share,” Facebook said.
Facebook offers lots of ways to control who can see what content you post on Facebook, though some complain the options are still a bit complicated. Facebook said it would be reminding people who share their posts publicly that those posts can be seen by anyone, including people they may not know.
Companies offering anonymous web-browsing and communication services are seeing a huge increase in business since recent news leaks about the U.S. National Security Agency’s mass data collection and surveillance activities.
Disconnect Search, an anonymous web-search service that launched Monday, had more than 400,000 searches by users by Thursday morning, said Casey Oppenheim, its co-founder. Disconnect, which also offers users a service to block companies from tracking them online, started working on Disconnect Search more than a year ago, before the first leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were published in June.
But Oppenheim believes the continuing revelations about NSA data collection are driving users to the search service, he said by email. Web searches are among the most personal information that companies or the government could collect about someone, he said.
“In comparison to search surveillance, I’d probably rather have my phone tapped or my email tracked because I’m filtering myself when I communicate with others in those ways,” he said. “Most people don’t filter their searches and don’t understand how their queries are being tracked, saved, and turned into profiles that are associated with their real names and/or their IP address.”