Facebook to sunset its search privacy settings

Facebook on Thursday announced the final phase of removing an old privacy feature from the social media platform. The feature, which allows users to be hidden from search, will finally be taken away for users who have it enabled.

The feature, called “Who can look up your Timeline by name?” was removed from Privacy settings last year (noted in a December blog post) for those who didn’t have it enabled. When enabled, the setting removes the ability for users to access a Timeline profile via search, even when a user puts in the exact name of the person he or she is locating. Now, users that still have that feature enabled will begin to see removal notices from Facebook, indicating that they will be present and visible in Graph Search along with the rest of the Facebook user base.

Facebook says in the blog post that the feature is a vestigial precaution that reaches back before the platform had a sophisticated search algorithm. When Facebook search acted as a mere directory, removing oneself from search made it more difficult for strangers to access a given profile. But now, as Open Graph opens up to search more settings and there is greater visibility of Timelines for friends of friends, the importance of finding a person through search has diminished while controlling the content on any given Timeline has become more important. Facebook says that the feature also caused hiccups in the user experience:

“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.”

Of course, the sunsetting of this feature for those who care about it the most only stresses the importance of checking and updating Facebook privacy settings often. Now, it’s more important to consider the content of the Timeline itself: a “private Timeline” is only such when content is marked explicitly “Friends Only.” As Facebook continues to make search easier, it’s important to keep in mind how these changes impact social media privacy at large.