There’s No Hiding on Facebook

social network effect

Facebook’s sole way to stay invisible to unwanted friend requests and curious eyes has vanished.  In its place?  A more powerful Search Graph.

The privacy setting had been available since Facebook launched Timeline back in September 2011. The feature, buried in numerous other privacy settings, essentially prevented people from finding you via the search bar.  Users thought they could be fully invisible to non-friends throughout the site by activating this feature. This wasn’t the case, as TechCrunch explained:

“There have been lots of ways to navigate to your profile [outside of the search bar feature], like clicking your name on a photo you’re tagged in, finding your name in a friend’s friend list, or combing through Likes on a mutual friend’s News Feed post.”

The article goes on to explain how the Open Graph feature, in place since January of this year, has made the privacy setting in question even more of a moot point:

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“With…Graph Search, the avenues for sniffing out someone’s profile grew exponentially. Basically every piece of personal information (and soon the content you post about) could bring you up in a search. If you publicly list that you live in San Francisco, a Graph Search for ‘People who live in San Francisco’ could lead someone to your profile.”

Privacy advocates point out, however, that Graph Search allows people to find you on a macro level and requires the results to be narrowed down. Now that the old setting has been jettisoned, an exact match is now much easier.

The realistic scenario remains: with or without this feature, a person who is active on Facebook – even is still able to be found via Graph Search; it might just take a negligible amount of further effort.

The good news? If there is a particular person who is harassing you via the site you may still both block them and report them to Facebook. When blocking someone you become completely invisible to the blocked user on two conditions: 1) they are logged in their account and don’t look you up when they’re logged out, and 2) they don’t make a secondary fake profile, which you then approve as a friend.

We’re sure this isn’t the last change to Facebook’s privacy policy. Here are some tips to help stay private:

  • Don’t use your real full name on the site (this is against Facebook policy, but it’s a common practice among privacy advocates)
  • Register with an email address that you don’t commonly use
  • Make your profile picture (which is always public) one where it’s difficult to discern your identity – stand far away, or wear a hat and glasses
  • Don’t volunteer information you don’t need to – such as the high school or college you’ve attended, your past and present employment, where you’re from and where you currently live – all of this is just used for Open Graph purposes
  • Remember: the more you interact, the more searchable you are

What are some of your best tips for staying private on Facebook?

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