When Facebook launched in 2004, search was a tool for locating friends. Last year, its functionality expanded to include the individual posts of friends. Now, any post set to ‘public’ can be found via Facebook search.
On October 22, Facebook not only announced the change, but also created a new section of its Newsroom page: Search FYI, a sure sign of additional change to come. Based on Facebook’s current trajectory, it seems safe to assume that Search FYI will become the home of future privacy-reducing announcements.
From Facebook’s perspective, the shift provides the opportunity to “find out what the world is saying about topics that matter” and, with a current collection of 2 trillion individual posts, they certainly have the capacity to make that a reality. Regardless, it’s not hard to see that Facebook also hopes public search will give users one less reason to turn to Google or Twitter.
Fortunately, individual users remain in control of their posts’ privacy settings, which means now is a great time to update your Facebook account:
- Protect your future posts: Click on the ‘Privacy Shortcuts’ padlock icon in the top right corner of your Facebook page. From the dropdown menu, click on ‘Who can see my stuff?’ and then ‘Who can see my future posts?’ Customize this as you like; we support ‘Only Me’, ‘Friends’ and anything in between.
- Protect your past posts: Click on the ‘Privacy Shortcuts’ padlock icon in the top right corner of your Facebook page. At the bottom of the dropdown menu, click on ‘See More Settings’ and then ‘Limit Past Posts’ under ‘Who can see my stuff?’. By selecting ‘Limit Old Posts’, any post you’ve already shared will now be shared with your friends only.
Our words of caution:
- You always have the option to change the privacy settings of individual posts. If you choose to use this feature, keep in mind that Facebook defaults your account settings to your most recent setting. So, if you decide it’s safe to share your World Series enthusiasm publicly, be sure to readjust your privacy settings immediately after or all your future posts will go global.
- Facebook was created as a platform to let information go viral, not protect it. Your privacy settings will not stop friends from including you in their public posts and, in spite of your best efforts to limit your audience, your posts will reach friends of friends every time you tag someone.
Facebook’s latest change is a clear attempt to compete with the services offered by Google and Twitter. Its success, however, rests on users’ willingness to make their posts public. In the interest of not converting the internet into a one-platform forum, let’s keep Facebook amongst friends.
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