Facebook has almost finished eliminating one of its privacy features.
For quite some time, Facebook users could block people from looking up their Timeline by name. That wouldn’t prevent searchers from finding a user’s Timeline by other means, such as clicking on a tagged photo on a friend’s page; but for some people, it was another option for controlling their information on the social network.
In December, Facebook eliminated that feature for anyone who’d never used it before; now it’s going away entirely.
Facebook’s corporate blog posting on the matter makes it seem as if the feature’s been rendered obsolete by Graph Search, a far more powerful search tool. “The setting was created when Facebook was a simple directory of profiles and it was very limited,” it read. “For example, it didn’t prevent people from navigating to your Timeline by clicking your name in a story in News Feed, or from a mutual friend’s Timeline.” Graph Search makes it more important to lock down what content you share, as opposed to regulating how people arrive at your timeline in the first place.
Facebook also claims that some users found the feature disorienting at times. “For example, people told us that they found it confusing when they tried looking for someone who they knew personally and couldn’t find them in search results,” the posting added, “or when two people were in a Facebook Group and then couldn’t find each other through search.”
From now on, users who want to control what information ends up on Facebook (in addition to the general settings accessible via the privacy icon in the top bar) can click on the privacy settings of individual posts, futz with the items in their Activity Logs, or ask friends to remove sensitive content. That’s a lot of work for anyone retroactively scrubbing their Facebook profile—and none of it prevents someone from quickly and easily finding out whether you exist on the network.
Just last week, Facebook updated Graph Search with new features, including the ability to search through friends’ postings and status updates. From its beginnings, Graph Search was considered an ambitious project, but its ability to drill deeply into user data has generated some very big (and to be fair, totally expected) questions about online privacy. “When a billion people are listing everything they like (or ‘Like’) on Facebook, from travel and games to photos and people, all that information is stored in one gigantic graph,” Slashdot writer Jeff Cogswell wrote in February. “That’s somewhat more ominous than Google’s tracking.”