Are you part of the one billion people on Planet Earth who have a Facebook account? If you’re reading this, I bet you are. I also bet at some point, you’ve shared something on Facebook you’d rather your boss, your students, or your ex-boyfriend not see.
Facebook has quietly dropped a huge change to their privacy settings, potentially making some of your old posts viewable to everyone. Anything you’ve previously shared to friends of friends is now searchable and viewable by the whole of planet Facebook.
Why this change to Facebook search is happening
Three words: real-time news. While there’s always a healthy amount of debate between Twitter and Facebook fans over which platform is “best”, in my opinion, there’s no question Twitter does breaking news better. With this change, my sense is Facebook is looking to do something about that, and create more reasons for users to rely on Facebook as the modern-day water cooler.
As news and current events unfold in realtime, people flock to Facebook to see what their friends are saying about it. Let’s say you search for #cometogether” on Facebook. As I understand it, this change in Facebook Search now opens up the results you’d see for that search beyond your friends. It now shows results from friends of friends, and posts shared by strangers that relate to what you’re looking for.
Facebook is doing this to create more dialog amongst it’s users. Along the way, it will also collect even more data about us, the will be used to deliver more relevant content (and advertising). After all, we are the product of Facebook, not the other way around. With more engaging conversations around topical things, it should give you more reason to stick around Facebook, and spend less time on the “other” platforms.
Why this change to Facebook Search will be problematic for many
Here’s the thing. Sharing your opinion about sports or the latest celebrity tantrum is one thing. Having past comments you’ve made about politics, sexuality, or religion that weren’t really meant to be public is another.
Look to examples where politicians – like this recent one – have dropped out of campaigns because of Facebook comments they’ve made, which (to their great regret) became public.
Perhaps more concerning is how this change may affect people who live their lives in partial secret. From political activists, to teens and adults being outed when their Facebook activity data gets exposed, people’s lives may be genuinely at risk.
This change has already gone live. Fortunately there’s something you can do about it, if you choose.
How to check your Facebook privacy settings, and make sure what you want private, stays private.
To their credit, Facebook continues to make it easier and easier to check your privacy settings, and quickly audit your privacy settings. In the top-right of Facebook (in a big browser), perform a privacy checkup.
It’s always a great idea to check these types of settings – especially if you never have – on any free social media platforms you use. You might be surprised at how accessible your content is.
Facebook has made it really easy to retroactively update anything you’ve previously shared to Friends of Friends, or the Public, and change the visibility of those posts to just Friends. Here are step-by-step instructions how to do it. While this is the mobile app experience, the same steps apply in a big browser.
Step 1: Find your Privacy settings
Step 2: Look for the “Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public”
Step 3: Read the disclaimer and hit “Limit Old Posts”
That’s it. Any past content you’ve shared with Friends of Friends, or to the Public, is visible only to your Friends. It also means your past content won’t show up in the new Facebook search.
At least for now.