January 18, 2013

On Facebook, users can no longer hide from search results

In the wake of its “graph search” announcement, Facebook removed the ability for users to opt out of appearing in search results on the site. Because graph search relies on the content of profiles to fuel its results, the move will allow more comprehensive returns on searches but may violate the privacy of users who previously relied on that feature.

Before Facebook’s changes to its privacy policy and the implementation of graph search, users were able to keep their profiles—even their most basic information—out of the searches of non-friends. This setting would make it impossible for non-friends to locate a Facebook profile, unless the hidden person reached out first.

Such profiles would hinder the progress of graph search, which relies on profile content to cull information. Facebook asserts that a “single-digit percentage” of profiles had previously opted out of being searchable.

Now, Facebook has pushed everyone into the limelight. The guys over at Ars Technica have noted a couple of profiles, formerly non-searchable, now appear in search results. Presumably, once graph search is turned on for their friends, the information in their formerly hidden profiles will be tallied along with the rest.