Privacy researcher Ashkan Soltani makes an important point about Facebook's big rollout of new search functionality on Tuesday. We can't opt out, and as recently as December, we could.
Facebook's Graph Search will allow users to search through their networks of friends to find the answers to questions like "what sushi restaurant in San Francisco do my Japanese friends like the most." CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a big point of emphasizing how "privacy aware" Graph Search will be -- implying that if you pay proper attention to your privacy controls you can control what other people find out about you.
But you can't control whether people can search for you at all -- and that's new. On Dec. 12, the New York Times' Nick Bilton reported that Facebook "is eliminating the ability for people to hide themselves on Facebook’s search, a control, that until now, has existed in the privacy settings on the company’s Web site."
Well of course they are! If too many people removed themselves from Facebook's search, the functionality of Graph Search would suffer!
Facebook's double dealing here offers a classic example of why Facebook's own users don't -- and shouldn't -- trust the privacy protestations of Facebook executives. Even as they unveil new features that make it easier for us to data-mine the personal information of everyone we are linked to, they take away our ability to opt out of those features.