By Mujie Cui
Social media giant alters ability for users to hide who can search for them online
Founder of Common Sense Media Jim Steyer once said “Facebook’s privacy policies are sort of like the weather. They’re constantly changing. That’s about the only thing you can be sure of.”
In the past week, Facebook started finishing the removal of an old setting called “Who can look up your Timeline by name?”
Last year this project was announced along with new controls for managing content posted on Facebook.
From now on, without the restrictions of “who can look up your Timeline by name,” people can search for any existing users on Facebook, including those who had disabled this search option in their Facebook privacy settings.
For people who had never used this privacy setting, Facebook deleted this option in December. For people who had hidden themselves from search engines, they have now been forced out of hiding.
Facing questions from the press, Facebook claims only a small percentage of its users used the option.
People hold different opinions on the change of privacy settings.
Some view the policies of some social networking sites, like Facebook, which never allow users to find out who visited their homepages or pictures, to amount to nothing more than useful tools for users to stalk other users. This stalking is usable in a number of different contexts and relationships.
Business partners and employers want to know their potential partners and employees better, so they make more conscious choices on collaborations and hiring new people, using data from individuals’ Facebook profiles to gain additional information.
That’s what LinkedIn was built for; providing information to potential employers.
Employers who want to find and select the best employees want to know more about candidates, and Facebook became a perfect place for them to stalk their potential employees.
But people should begin to be more conscious about what they post to Facebook.
Facebook explained the reason why they removed “who can look up your Timeline by name?” claiming only a small percentage of its users took advantage of the option.
But suppose only 1 percent of users use this option, and users can still control their privacy by setting up “Who can see my stuff?” Since Facebook is such a large social networking website that connects 1.4 billion users, even 1 percent amounts to 14 million users and their personal information.
With the loosening of privacy settings, users can access 1.4 billion existing users’ account names.
And from there, they are able to access every user’s public posts.
Today, when we talk about Facebook’s search engine, we could easily connect it with Facebook’s graph search (for example, “People who live in Schenectady”) making it even more important to control the privacy of what you share, rather than how people get to your Timeline.
The broader search range enables people to find friends whom they have lost contact with for years, and enables them to re-establish contact with their old friends.
But the change also enables stalkers to access your locations, and allows advertisement companies to track your “Likes.”
If you are still searching for the best way to control what people can find about you, there are three potential solutions.
First is to de-activate or delete your Facebook account.
Second is to choose the audience of the individual things you share. In the coming weeks, people who are sharing posts publicly on Facebook will also see a notice reminding them that those posts can be seen by anyone.
Third, use Activity Log to review individual things you’ve already shared and delete those you don’t want to share with people.
In the 21st century, when Facebook can mark the exact location of your home on a map if you share your personal address on Facebook, privacy of location isn’t really an option.
The change will create a larger, more complete user information database, and it will record your shopping and dining restaurants and other such information associated with your private life.
Your mobile phone information will even disclose to Facebook whether you are walking or driving.
What Facebook will specifically use this information for remains unknown, but they currently use the data in some form for targeted advertisements.
The new privacy feature might improve our Facebook usage, but it is more likely to increase the ease with which are located for accurate advertisement marketing on our Facebook sidebar.
Whether or not you once used Facebook’s now non-existent privacy feature, it is important to always keep your online privacy in mind.