Facebook just killed the privacy feature that controlled who could search for your profile by first or last name. The company actually eliminated this feature last year for users who didn't have the setting checked, but now it's delivering the coup de grace even for those of us who actually use it.
(Update: Facebook clarified that this search setting won't disappear—for those still using it, that is—until users get a notification and click a button reading, "Okay, I understand." Those notifications will be going out in coming weeks, not necessarily today.)
The company claims the feature was created when the social network was simply a directory of profiles. Now, though, Facebook says this privacy setting has become more confusing than helpful—particularly in the wake of the company's introduction of Graph Search, which lets users search for each other and for status updates, and open groups that show profile pictures and images to anyone in the group.
I'm one of the users that's losing the privacy setting. I implemented the feature years ago when I worried about showing up in unwanted searches. Right now, only my friends can find my timeline by name. But not for much longer.
Which makes now as good a time as any to review your own privacy settings, just in case Facebook has tweaked anything else you might have been counting on.
The Facebook Settings You Should Check
If you're like me and like to share your social life with a select group of friends, there are a few settings you should make sure are in place going forward.
1. Privacy Settings
You'll find these as a drop-down option when you click the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook page on the Web. Here, you can tailor the audience for your posts. You can go back and make all your posts private in this section, access the Activity Log (see the next section), and determine how widely you want to distribute future posts by default.
You can also set who can contact you and how. This is where you will no longer see the "look up my timeline by name" feature, but you can still control who finds you by searching an email or phone number.
You can choose to let other search engines link directly to your timeline. By keeping this off, Google, Bing or Yahoo searches for your name won't point to your Facebook page.
2. Activity Log
In your activity log, you can view and edit your posts, messages, posts you've been tagged in, photos, likes, and comments. You can edit or delete any activity dating back to when you first joined Facebook. You can see your Activity Log by choosing it from the drop-down privacy settings menu. (Note: it's both kind of fun and occasionally horrifying to look back at your Facebook history.)
3. Timeline and Tag Settings
After you've clicked into your privacy settings, look at the left-hand column for finer grained control of your Timeline and tags. If you want to know who's tagging you in posts before your name publicly appears on someone's timeline—and deny them if you choose—make sure the "review posts" setting is turned on. In this section you can also determine the audience viewing your timeline, and who is allowed to tag you in posts.
Facebook uses facial recognition to offer tag suggestions to users when they upload a photo (freaky, right?). If you don't want your face automatically generating tag suggestions, turn the feature off here.
4. Deactivate or Delete Account
Facebook doesn't want to lose your data. It makes it easy to deactivate your account under "Security Settings," but this move only hides you from the public. People won't be able to view your timeline or search for you, but some information, such as messages you sent, will still be visible to your friends. When you deactivate your account, Facebook saves all your information including friends, photos, interests, and posts for your inevitable return.
To actually delete your account, you have to fill out a brief form. Although before you go, I suggest downloading your Facebook history first, available under "General Settings," in case you want to look back on all the time you wasted.
It's important to note that once you post something on Facebook, or any other social network, it's no longer private, period. While Facebook makes it fairly easy to control with whom you share information, the best way to keep your information private is to not post it anywhere in the first place.