As far as tin foil hats go, nothing makes me wedge mine further onto my head than when Facebook makes any kind of announcement; their most recent offering, ‘Graph Search’ being no exception.
The Graph Search feature enables you to conduct searches on just about anything, although the data received is different from your run-of-the-mill Google search as the results come from within Facebook.
Let’s say you were planning a big night in and searched for ‘Friends who like Breaking Bad and fried chicken.’ Voila! You’d get a list of friends (or friends of friends) who share those Likes – cue the invite list.
It would be easy to vilify the social networking giant for exposing the information that we willingly surrender, but at the end of the day the feature is pretty darn cool. Almost everything (bar status updates) will be included in the index:
Driving the wedge further between Google and Facebook, if you don’t find any results from the Facebook database, they’ll deliver outside results from Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Important to note is that none of your information will show up for other users unless you’ve allowed them to see it to begin with. If your privacy is set to ‘friends only’, then only your friends will see you in their Graph Search queries. Posts or check-ins set to ‘public’ will show up in everyone’s results- which is quite the ‘discoverability problem’ if you’ve mucked up your settings to begin with. Luckily, Graph Search has only launched to select users (mine went active this morning), so while they busily iron out any issues, the rest of us have some time to batten down the hatches.
So what next?
Lock down your past posts
Not relishing the thought of plodding through the privacy settings for each and every one of your old Facebook posts? No kidding. This super easy feature will search through your sordid Facebook history and limit all your past posts to ‘friends only’ (even those from so long ago you’d have to scroll down forever to access them.) To lock out friends of friends from searching for your high-school and uncovering those dorky school ball pics:
1. Click the padlock on the top right of your profile page and hit ‘See More Settings’
2. Click ‘Limit Past Posts’ under ‘Who can see my stuff’.
3. Click ‘Limit Old Posts’ and confirm the change.
Tweak the audience of your future posts
The audience selector button (think the ‘down arrow’ underneath your posts) can be changed for everything that you share with Facebook, including details about where you work and things that you like. To prevent some creep from finding you in a search of your hometown:
1. Head over to your timeline
2. Click ‘Update info’ located on the right of your cover photo
3. Set everything to ‘friends’, ‘only me’, or even ‘custom’ if you’re up for the challenge.
Prune your Likes
Remember all those things you liked back in 2006? It’s possible you don’t even like that stuff anymore (‘24’- I’m looking at you), or no longer want to be associated with it.
1. Click on ‘Likes’ (found on your Timeline under ‘more’.)
2. Either trawl through each year, visit each page you’ve previously ‘liked’, and manually set it to ‘unlike’ by clicking the ‘Liked’ button (the one with the tick.)
3. Alternatively, use the drop-down pencil to the right of each category (such as music or TV shows) to manage the audience that can see that category. To make the Likes completely private, choose ‘Only me’ by hitting ‘Edit Privacy.’
Review the stuff you’re tagged in
The information you post to Facebook is only half of the puzzle – keep in mind that your friends will also post content – much of which may include you. Remember the old ‘Profile Review?’ That’s been aptly renamed ‘Timeline Review’ for those cool cats that have the new Timeline feature.
1. Head over to your activity log and click the ‘Timeline Review’ in the left column
2. From the cog, you can enable a setting to manually approve posts, pictures, and check-ins you’re tagged in, before they appear on your profile.
3. While you’re there ‘Posts you’ve hidden’ will uncover any embarrassing stuff that you may have hidden from your timeline that is still out there (and still embarrassing.)
Your Facebook friends will likely fall into two groups – those who are right there alongside you for every adventure, and those less familiar faces you accept out of obligation. Tweaking your privacy settings will benefit both camps, and with more useful info for the former, and less spying for the latter, the biggest winner in the privacy race is you.
13 million Facebook users have never touched their privacy settings, so go ahead and leave only the flattering photos, the fun holiday snaps, and the good hair days. Or take solace in the fact that by knowing exactly what information is out there in Facebook land, your tin foil hat can be repurposed as an oven liner. Breaking Bad and Fried Chicken Marathon anyone?