Facebook removing setting that lets users hide from search

11 Oct 2013

Facebook users now have no way to control who can search for their name on the social networking site, now that the company is removing a privacy setting.

In an online post yesterday, Facebook announced its plans to finalise the removal of the ‘Who can look up your Timeline by name?’ setting, which used to allow users to limit who could find their profile photo and basic information when someone entered their name in the search bar.

How Facebook users can control what people see across the site:

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 (the padlock icon at the top of the page) 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.

Source: Facebook

The company first removed the setting last year for members who weren’t using the service. The “small percentage” of Facebook’s 1.2bn active users still using the setting will see reminders about its removal in the coming weeks, Facebook’s chief privacy officer Michael Richter wrote.

‘Who can look up your Timeline by name?’ is being removed, Richter wrote, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the setting had been created when Facebook was a simple directory of profiles and it was very limited.

“For example, it didn’t prevent people from navigating to your Timeline by clicking your name in a story in News Feed, or from a mutual friend’s Timeline. Today, people can also search Facebook using Graph Search (for example, ‘People who live in Seattle,’) making it even more important to control the privacy of the things you share rather than how people get to your Timeline,” wrote Richter.

Secondly, the setting also made Facebook’s search feel broken at times.

“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.”

Users still have a way of protecting their presence on Facebook, however, once the ‘Who can look up your Timeline by name?’ feature is turned off for everyone.

“The best way to control what people can find about you on Facebook is to choose who can see the individual things you share,” Richter wrote.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic