Facebook's privacy settings for each aspect of the social network are supposed to put you in control. The company's most recent privacy changes were designed to make understanding your privacy easier. But in light of Facebook's new Graph Search, those privacy changes also now make you and what you've posted more searchable and easily found. So rather than try to tweak (yet again) Facebook's privacy settings, I think we all have to admit what we've suspected all along: just consider everything you post there as shared at large.
Graph Search, currently in beta, is meant to be a way for you to find people who share your interests. It's also made every Facebook user part of a gigantic database connecting its billion members. Like it or not, anything you've shared publicly on the social network--or anything any of your friends have shared about you publicly--is now just a click away for strangers to find. It might be an advertiser's gold mine.
Granted, Graph Search doesn't really change the privacy settings Facebook had before. The search results should only show public content and what's been shared between users (e.g., you can look up anything shared with you and your friends can search and find anything you've shared with them). You still have granular control over each piece of content you share (and limited control over what others share about you).
Still, the new search feature makes it much easier for people to find you and information about you.
That includes anything you hide in your timeline. One would think hiding something on your timeline would keep others from seeing it, but, nope. Facebook's FAQ says that "photos and posts hidden from your timeline are still visible to these people other places on Facebook, such as in news feed and search."
It's also not just the stuff you upload that's more searchable now: If you've been tagged in a photo shared with either the public or select groups, people beyond your control can see them. (Although you can ask the person to take it down.)
The common advice with every new Facebook privacy change or possibly privacy-changing feature is to review your privacy settings. That means going over everything in your timeline, your photos, your likes, your default preferences, your friends, your activity log, and so on and making sure only the right groups are allowed to see them.
It's too much to play this song-and-dance anymore, though. Facebook has won by wearing us down. (Even Mark Zuckerberg's sister doesn't understand Facebook's privacy settings.)
Last month when Facebook updated its privacy settings, mostly for more transparency, it also removed one key feature in advance of this global Graph Search, Quartz points out, and it hardly seems like coincidence: the ability to opt out of search results.
I probably sound like a paranoid privacy nut to some people, but really I think it's time to give up the quest for privacy on Facebook, a company whose CEO has famously said that privacy is no longer a "social norm." Just consider that anything you post on Facebook can and will be found by anyone--and refrain from sharing any ridiculous, stupid things on Facebook now so easily findable.
Image by Opensource.com