Facebook Removes Search Privacy: Is It Time To Delete Your Profile?

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Facebook confirms that its new app, which accesses your microphone, also stores the data it receives.

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FBannounced Thursday that it was finishing a process it started in December to make all Facebook profiles searchable by all users. Users whose Facebook Timelines have been immune to the search function will soon get notifications explaining that their immunity will be removed by the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social network.

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Facebook insisted the “Who can look up your Timeline by name?” setting isn’t useful anymore and that privacy controls on posts constitute a more effective way of protecting users’ privacy.

“The setting was created when Facebook was a simple directory of profiles and it was very limited,” Facebook said on its blog, explaining that the feature had never prevented people from finding profiles via its News Feed or likes on other posts.

When the International Business Times asked readers about the Facebook change, opinions were pretty evenly divided. Many didn’t seem to mind the social-media site’s actions at all.

“If you are putting yourself on facebook, you should be able to be searched. if you don’t want people to find you, get off facebook [sic],” Devon Michael O’Connor commented.

Facebook also said only a “small percentage of people” actually used the soon-to-be-retired setting. It didn’t specify the exact percentage, but the Associated Press indicated the percentage is in the single digits.

If just 1 percent of Facebook’s total user base took advantage of it, however, that’s still about 11.5 million people. That’s a hefty number of Facebook users who actually care about their privacy, and it’s likely the real number is much higher than that. Given that most people never change their Facebook default settings -- possibly more than 95 percent, according to an extrapolation of figures reported by User Interface Engineering -- the social network could potentially offend millions of active, engaged users with the policy change.

Being concerned about digital privacy isn’t just for the tinfoil-hat crowd. Some Facebook users don’t want certain people (read: stalkers) to follow their online life. Facebook now only hides a profile from blocked users, but people can easily create profiles with fake names and find the objects of their obsessions.

This is just the latest reason that some people are leaving Facebook. In May, Facebook was one of several technology companies outed as a participant in secret U.S. National Security Agency domestic electronic-surveillance programs such as PRISM. Edward Snowden, the former NSA-contractor-turned-whistle-blower, reported that companies such as Facebook even worked with the NSA to provide backdoor access to user data. Facebook was one of the last companies implicated by Snowden to publish a transparency report about requests for information it receives from the government.

“Why not just call this what it is...NSABook [sic]?” wrote IBTimes reader Dan Brown. “Just grateful I have a common name resulting in a frustrating search for any loser with enough time to stalk me.”

In August, Facebook made sweeping changes to a couple of its governing legal documents. Among these changes, the company rewrote its policies about personalized advertisements, encompassing data-usage rules dealing with the sharing of user data with others and what data third parties can retain. Along the way, the company gave itself permission to know whether you are accessing its services via Android or iOS product.

What do you think about Facebook removing the option to hide your profile from its Graph Search? Are you ready to delete your Facebook profile just yet? Let us know in the comments section.

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