Facebook users should check their privacy settings if they want to limit the people who can search every post or status update they have ever made, online security and technology bloggers say, following an upgrade to Facebook’s Graph Search.
Facebook announced Monday that its Graph Search – a search tool available to some English-language users, mostly in the U.S. – has been upgraded to allow users to search status updates, photo captions, check-ins and comments. Previously, the feature could only search people, photos, places and interests.
- Read Dan Misener's analysis of what you can do with graph search and the implications
“Suddenly everything we’ve written on Facebook isn’t just clunkily navigable from our profiles. It can be searched by anyone with permission to see it,” wrote blogger Josh Constine on the technology news site TechCrunch, following Facebook’s announcement.
“Your bitter posts from your college library, silly comments on friends’ wedding photos, and dispatches from distant vacation check-ins can all be distilled from the rest of your content.”
Facebook noted that users will only be able to share content that has been shared with them – that is, content shared with friends only can only be searched by those friends, but posts that are shared publicly can be searched by people you are not friends with.
Facebook said the expanded search will be rolled out gradually, and will initially only be available to some of the people who currently have Graph Search.
However, “you can still swab the deck in preparation for whatever mess might spill over once everybody gets the ability to search for every Facebook thing you've ever done,” suggested technology writer Lisa Vaas on the Naked Security blog run by internet security company Sophos.
Here are some seven ways to protect your privacy on Facebook now that Graph Search has been expanded:
- Check your About tab. Facebook recommends that you click this tab on your profile page and use “edit” to control who can see – and search – information on your profile.
- Check your Photos tab. Facebook recommends that you review photos you have shared or are tagged in.
- Check your Activity Log. Facebook recommends that you check this setting on your profile page to review who can see the things you share and make note of which posts are public.
- Remove tags from photos and posts you’re tagged in that you don’t want to be searchable. You can do that by hovering over them and selecting “remove tag” from the drop-down menu.
- Limit old posts. If you don’t want to adjust settings for old posts individually, Ashley Feinberg, a blogger for Gizmodo, recommends that you use this feature, found under “See More Settings” in the Privacy Shortcuts menu accessible in the top right corner of Facebook. That will allow you to make all past posts visible only to friends.
- Don’t use hashtags. Vaas suggests that avoiding the hashtag feature rolled out in June will “keep strangers out of your conversations and unaware of your activity.” However, Facebook notes that even hashtagged posts are only visible to people you share them with, and can't be seen by strangers unless you make them public.
- Delete past posts that you don’t want anyone to see. You can find them using Timeline by selecting the year you made the post. Hovering the mouse over the top right corner allows you to click on an arrow that brings down a menu with the “delete” option.