Facebook now lets you stalk by name

You can no longer hide your name from Facebook searches. We asked our resident expert, Dr. Facebook, to tell us what that really means

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There’s been quite the hullabaloo about changes to Facebook’s privacy settings this week (no. 3,457 in a series), in particular, your inability to keep strangers from finding your Facebook profile. As is typical with all Facebook privacy changes, though, a lot of confusion and misinformation is being spread.

To sort out the mess, TY4NS asked Dr. Facebook (not his real name) to weigh in with answers to some of the most pressing questions. Dr. Facebook is a privacy expert of some note who wishes to remain anonymous because, well, it’s none of your damned business, actually.

What’s the deal with Facebook no longer allowing people to block name searches?

You used to be able to check a box that said, essentially, don’t let strangers find my Facebook profile by searching on my name. And now you can’t do that. Last December Facebook turned off that option for new users; this week, it started removing that feature from anyone who had been using it up until now. Those people saw something that looked like this:

Image credit: Facebook newsroom

Does this mean that anyone can now find everything you’ve ever posted to Facebook?

No. Nothing else has changed. What anyone else can find still depends on how you’ve set up your privacy controls, using the Privacy and Tools menu or the dropdown box on each post. If your status posts are set to “Friends” only by default, then only friends can see them. If they’re set to “Everyone,” then … you get the picture.

And just in case you don’t, here’s a picture:

So what’s the practical effect of this change?

It depends.

You’re starting to sound like a lawyer.

There’s no need to get nasty.

If you’ve got a Facebook account and you’re trying to hide from someone – like, say, an abusive ex spouse, a crazy stalker, or that incredibly annoying former co-worker you’ve been trying to avoid for the last 20 years -- the only way to do that is to find them and block them before they search for you. Otherwise, they can look for your name and find you. Nice, eh?

Now, if your name is a common one like Joe Smith or Sally Jones, they’ll probably have to sort through thousands of profiles before they reach yours. If you’re Zbigniew Brzezinski, though, not so much.

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