September 24, 2012, 3:00 PM — Searching for tips on cross dressing, adult incontinence, or nude pix of Snooki? Don’t do it on Facebook – it might come back to haunt you.
Late last week Facebook announced it is now storing a history of your search terms, a la Google, though exactly why it is doing this they didn’t say. Presumably to better serve you ads and/or mine that data for its own nefarious purposes.
Today, these searches will only be visible to you (and, of course, to Facebook). Tomorrow, though, who knows? Facebook may in its infinite wisdom decide that sharing your searches is also one of the “new norms” for online activity.
The problem with Facebook searches is that, unlike with a normal browser search, you can’t enter incognito or private mode to avoid having your search terms archived in some data center somewhere. You certainly can’t do a fully private search, as you can with DuckDuckGo or StartPage. Like the Sting song says, everywhere you go, everything you do, Facebook is watching you.
Assuming that Facebook will store these search terms for the life of your account, as it does with pretty much everything else you do on the network, these terms could theoretically be subpoenaed if you ever find yourself on the wrong side of the legal system.
Fortunately, you can tell Facebook to sod off, but only for each individual search. There’s no way to simply tick a box that says “Don’t log me, bro.” And in typical Facebook fashion, they’ve made that opt out rather hard to find. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Go to your Timeline page. (Yeah, I know – you hate it, right?)
2. Click Activity Log, in the box next to “Update Info.”
3. Facebook will open a new page listing all your activity, with your posts and apps shown by default. Click the down arrow inside the box labeled “Posts and Apps” and select “Search.”
4. If you’ve run any Facebook searches you’ll see them listed by month, along with two small icons on the right. Click the circle-with-a-slash icon, and then the word “Remove,” to delete that search from your Timeline Activity Log. You’ll have to click “Remove” again in the dialog box that pops up.
And viola! That search is expunged from memory. One down, 11,765,239 to go.