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A recent move by Facebook to remove a prominent privacy option has been slammed by many privacy advocates. However, it may be in your best interests as long as you know what to do about it.
Facebook has removed the “Who can look up your Timeline by name?” feature, meaning that anyone who knows your name can now search for you in Facebook. Yes, this sounds like a huge privacy breach, but it’s actually somewhat of a boon. Why? Well, it was broken in the first place.
How Was The Privacy Feature Broken?
Most people who set the “Who can look up your Timeline by name?” feature to just their friends thought honestly that no-one else could find their timeline. However that wasn’t really the case. No-one could SEARCH for your name and find your timeline, however anyone could follow links from comments in the news feed or groups and find their way to your timeline. They could also find your Timeline via useful Facebook Graph searches, since they were not actually searching for your NAME, merely searching for regular Facebook posts, photos and likes.
So, the whole concept led to people thinking that they had made their privacy settings sufficiently private, only to find that they hadn’t. That’s seriously broken.
The other problem was that it made it difficult for a person’s actual Facebook friends to use Facebook tools, such as messaging, inviting that person to events and tagging in photos, check-ins, comments or posts. If you knew a person from a group, or were actually friends with them, who had set this setting to a very private setting, it may not have been possible to communicate with them in certain ways.
Conversely, if you were the person who had used this setting, you may have found that none of your friends ever invited you to events. It wasn’t that they didn’t like you enough: they just couldn’t do it.
So, as a privacy setting, this really had to go. It confused people and it made it difficult for friends to communicate properly within Facebook. So, what now?
Why It’s A Problem
The main problem with removing this privacy feature is that Facebook hasn’t replaced it with anything adequate. For instance, if you are worried that someone is stalking you, Facebook suggests that you block them. This is inadequate for a number of reasons.
Firstly, you can’t (easily) block someone who has already blocked you. To block them, you need to know their profile URL and then tell Facebook staff to manually block them for you. This is difficult if you are unable see their URL merely because they blocked you first.
Secondly, your stalker could easily create another Facebook account and use that to view your timeline. You can’t play whack-a-mole trying to block your stalkers all the time. For this reason, Facebook really does need a way for you to be invisible to all but the friends you find yourself.
What Can You Do?
Well, start by ensuring your timeline’s privacy settings are thoroughly locked down, especially with regards to Facebook Graph Search privacy. You can very quickly limit all of your past posts in your privacy settings.
Make sure you’ve set everything to “Friends-only” or that you use a custom friends list to lock things down to some subset of your friends who you really trust. You will need to go through all of your basic privacy settings, as well as looking through all of your timeline information and Facebook “Likes” and updating the privacy for each section individually. There are many things which are public by default, so keep checking until your timeline is just right. Make good use of the “View As” function to see what it looks like to different people so that you are absolutely certain.
Block the stalker and any of their close friends, just in case the stalker takes a peek using their friends’ accounts. It won’t stop the stalker from creating a new account, but it will stop them inadvertently seeing your more public comments.
Stop commenting publicly. When you comment on a public post, anyone who can see that post can see your comment, whether you know them or not (unless you have blocked them). If a stranger who sees your comment clicks through to your timeline they will only see whatever you’ve made public, but they will still see that comment you made when they view the public post. For the same reason, you may wish to avoid commenting anywhere on Facebook, just in case one of your friends is friends with your stalker (using an account you haven’t blocked). If you are going to be realistic, you could presume that your comments are always public and make sure you never say anything you want kept private. That or essentially go into read-only mode on Facebook.
If you were using this setting as a way to stop your friends tagging you, you should perhaps block the tagging properly. Make sure you have set things so that any tags need to be reviewed and approved by you before they are seen by others.
What Do You Think?
What are your thoughts on this change? Do you worry that Facebook is eroding your privacy bit by bit, or are you relieved that your friends and family will no longer use this setting incorrectly, with false expectations of privacy? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credits: Facebook