It has come to the surface that Facebook took away the ability to hide profiles from search results this past December, which is awfully suspicious timing with the subsequent announcement of their new “graph search” feature. With graph search relying on Facebook user profile content for its search results, Facebook needed the extra information from previously private profiles.
When Facebook unveiled graph search, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quick to say that the new feature would have no impact on user privacy. He promised that anything marked as private would stay that way. Of course, if you quietly turn off the ability for users to opt-out of their profiles being searchable the month before releasing graph search, Zuckerberg’s statement is technically true.
Facebook excuses its actions by pointing out that even with the old privacy settings, a profile hidden from search results was still searchable in other ways, like through a mutual friend’s friend list. While Facebook is defending itself by saying that only a “single-digit percentage” of profiles have opted out of being searchable, Quartz news made the point that even if the number was one percent, it would still be 10 million people affected by the change. And we should also point out that the reality is that many, many users have no idea that they can or should opt out of their data being searched, let alone how to do it.
Many are now concerned that once more people, namely their friends, have access to graph search, their previously private information will be used in the graph tally. While tinkering with privacy is nothing new for Facebook, the fact that they made user profiles that were intentionally opted-out of being searchable, suddenly searchable, is egregious, even for Facebook.
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