No more hiding from Facebook search

The ability to opt out is almost over

Published October 10, 2013 9:50PM (EDT)

                 (<a href=''>pearleye</a> via <a href=''>iStock</a>/Salon)
(pearleye via iStock/Salon)

There was a time when Facebook users could make themselves "unsearchable" by changing a privacy setting called "Who can search for me by name?" Their accounts would still be visible to people who clicked their names in a News Feed story or on a mutual friends' timeline, but the random person who they met in a bar the previous evening could not find them using the Facebook search bar.

Facebook quietly announced it was axing that feature for people who weren't already using it in December. Today, the company announced it will take it away from everybody else in the coming weeks.

In a blog post, Facebook wrote the feature "was created when Facebook was a simple directory of profiles and was very limited" and made "Facebook's search feature feel broken at times," for example when someone searched for a personal acquaintance and came up empty.

But search also wasn't as important to Facebook when it first began offering the privacy setting as it has become with the introduction of Facebook Graph Search, a feature that dredges up people, places, photos, and, as of recently, status updates from the service's archive. Having unsearchable profiles would not make Graph Search any better. And so the setting, which was discontinued for most people before the launch of Graph Search, seems to have never applied to profile content discovered through the new feature.

Facebook acknowledges as much in its blog post, but frames it as a privacy concern: "Today, people can also search Facebook using Graph Search (for example, 'People who live in Seattle,') making it even more important to control the privacy of the things you share rather than how people get to your timeline."

The consolation? You can't be invisible to Facebook search anymore, but you can limit the visibility of all past posts.

By Sarah Kessler

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Facebook Internet Culture National Security Search Surveillance