No more hiding on Facebook as the social network plans to expose ‘the unsearchables’

12 Dec 2012

Once again, Facebook is revamping its privacy settings and while some of these changes put certain controls front and centre, making these settings easier to manage, the social network is also about to retire users’ ability to be unsearchable on the network.

According to Nick Bilton on The New York Times Bits blog, a phone interview with Facebook’s director of product Sam Lessin revealed more about the privacy changes that are afoot on the billion-strong social network.

Top-level controls called privacy shortcuts will be added to the navigation bar, right next to the settings cog, and from here users will be able to adapt who can see what is posted to their timeline and who can contact them on Facebook, and can also block users that they don’t wish to engage with.

Users will also be given more control over the content that appears in their Activity Log, allowing them to quickly review comments, photos and posts by others that they have been tagged in.

Facebook Privacy Shortcuts

However, these updates to privacy settings come with the removal of one significant privacy feature: the ability to block your profile from showing up in search results on Facebook. Bilton reports that this facility is to be retired, meaning that no user can hide from a Facebook search.

On a network where members are encouraged to use their real identities, this means users that wished to remain hidden from all but their circle of friends will be exposed to any of Facebook’s 1bn users that knows their name.

According to Lessin, only a single-digit percentage of users availed of this privacy feature, but in Facebook terms that could amount to anything from 10m to 90m users.

Of course, those looking up another user’s profile in search will still only see what that user has allowed them to see, so those concerned about this planned update would be wise to revise their privacy settings.

UPDATE: Seconds after posting, Lessin confirmed these updates will roll out from the end of this year, and made some clarifications.

Activity Logs will be updated for easier navigation that can be filtered by type, so users can quickly review images they are tagged in, for example, and send Report/Remove requests for multiple photos at a time.

Facebook privacy controls

Facebook privacy controls

In-context reminders will also be added to the service, alerting users to how the content they are sharing will appear in news feeds, search and other places.

Facebook privacy controls

App permissions will also be changing, in that requests to use your information on Facebook to personalise your experience and permission to post to Facebook on your behalf will be separated (they currently come all in one go). These new permissions will not apply to all apps, such as games apps on

Facebook privacy controls Facebook privacy controls

Lessin also describes the previous ‘Who can look up my timeline by name’ setting as limiting for users, as it did not prevent users from finding people through methods other than search. However, that does not really he fails to explain why taking away this option entirely represents an improvement for those users who were availing of it.

All images via Facebook

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.