Your public Facebook status updates? Now publicly searchable outside Facebook

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While the debate rages on about Facebook’s attitude to privacy, and in particular the views of Mark Zuckerberg, the current situation is that an awful lot of people make their status updates public, whether they realise the full implications or not. A stark reminder of this comes today in the form of a new search engine thrown together by two developers.

FacebookSearch simply takes those public status updates and makes them searchable, outside of Facebook. The guys behind it, Peter Burns and Will Moffat, have posted a simple explanation: “This is a simple example of just how open facebook has made your information. This data is wide open, and this is one of the least scary uses that anyone will make. If nothing changes, it’s only to get worse.” There’s an interesting discussion over at Hacker News on the morality of what they are doing.

The site defaults to search on the term “playing hooky” but other suggestions include: don’t tell anyone, rectal exam, stupid boss, HIV test and control urges.

The site goes on to tell users how to Delete their Facebook account or Fix their privacy settings

Now of course, people can Tweet equally about playing hooky from work on Twitter, although I’d say generally that’s considered a public platform, when Facebook has for a long time been promoted as more privacy driven.

No doubt FacebookSearch will fuel the debate about how much of our lives we make public and how we control what we say online.

  • Billy

    I look at it this way, anything done on the internet only has so much privacy involved, if it’s something you never what anyone to find out ever… don’t put it on the internet, if you have the confidence that the site you’re on will keep said info private that on you, but assume anything you put on the internet is being seen, either by people you want to see it, or people you don’t know are seeing it. Either way it’s not going to stop people from using certain sites, it’s just going to make them more conscious about what they are putting there… which is how we should have all been in the first place.

    • Shannon

      While I agree that in general everybody needs to be careful about what they post, I think the “outrage” over Facebook’s recent moves is based on the fact it started as a private social network to connect with your friends. I have an expectation with most services that my data will be private unless I choose otherwise, and especially for a closed network. Even if you put your privacy settings at the maximum, your data can be surfaced via your friends (inadvertently), and the fact that Facebook is also using it’s customer’s data in ads is also disturbing, ie-monetizing our data w/out our permission.

    • Marcelo Negrini

      Agree, the number of people that broadcast they are or plan to get wasted is unbelievable. This is the damn Internet, it is stupid to post private information in social networks, no matter the privacy policy.

      People say things in Facebook they wouldn’t say loud at a party or at a Starbucks.

      • Sean

        I can’t believe some people are just accepting the transition from private to public FB is making, chiding those who would post private things. Is email private? Do you trust it? What if google started making your emails public suddenly?

      • light dArk WithiN'

        lOl ur way too funny…..
        wt if every TELCOz makez ur callz n’ SMSz wide open to public….??!!!!
        “What if google started making your emails public suddenly ?”
        damn awesome Q u funnyhead…..
        but no worriez thr’ll be some other social network or websites…..or something promising you a “wteva u want, howeva u want it” policy……
        hahahahaa………u way too funny….

  • Mike

    Social media monitoring tools like Sysomos already got access to public status updates. Facebook will never shut this down

  • Karawang Businnes

    interesting article .. I like this article, because it related to my research

  • David1984

    This could seriously invade our privacy, facebook might get in trouble over legal matters

  • Scott Yates

    I have been thinking that maybe there’s a bit of schadenfreude going on with all these Facebook attacks, and just when I think about writing that, Michael Arrington beats me to it with his post this morning!

    I also think there’s a small bit of irony in the fact that the same people who think Facebook isn’t giving them enough privacy with the things they post (on the internet!) are now demanding to know what happened at a private Facebook meeting about privacy.

    • Mike Butcher

      Mike Butcher actually.

  • 3D Web Design

    Good news, thanks for letting us to know this. I test this search.

  • Scott Lester

    Facebook’s original assurances on privacy are one of the major things that lured original users into trying the service in the first place. (Think to 3-4 years ago when this stuff was new for most people.)

    So part of their success is attributable to this implied promise. The backlash is only getting started.

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  • failbook

    More Twitter wannabe features, nothing new here.

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  • Mathieu Lemoine

    While I do agree that there ARE huge issue with FB’s privacy management, if your status updates are public… Well you asked for it, stop being a dick and change your crappy privacy settings !

    • hiphopanonymous

      I think the point some people are completely missing is that Facebook takes your private information and spreads it in public… behind your back. It doesn’t even matter how much you tweak your privacy settings anymore – they do it through friends who haven’t changed their settings. And that’s an incredibly unethical practice, in any context.

      Tons of misinformation out there seems to be misleading the public at large.

      @disagree and @Elizabeth – But, that’s the point of this article. FB won’t even give us the choice to make anything private when we had the choice before. Everyone knows Twitter is public and we thought FB was as private as we wanted it to be. Two completely different platforms.

      But you do have a point there. The only solution is to delete your account. Not deactivate. Delete.

  • JonF

    I think this is amazing – users should be able to check a box to make a post public or private but this could put twitter out of business. Facebook has so much less noise than Twitter, as people tend to use their real identity. Facebook search is a business and a big one

    • Mathieu Lemoine

      @JonF: Actually they do, you know the dropbox looking like a lock letting you decide with who you want to share your posts… Plus the privacy settings about who may view your posts by default, which is not really hard to find…

      • Michael

        But it requires you to look and change — Facebook’s audience is not only tech savvy college students anymore — this could potentially be dangerous for the older, already susceptible, generations.

      • Mathieu Lemoine

        Indeed, their default values are of the worst kind. However, it is still possible and relatively easy to make FB behaves in a “reasonable” way (even if a greater and simpler control would be better).

      • Mathieu Lemoine

        PS : perhaps the image we have of Internet and computers should be changed back: It’s still a powerful tool that not everyone is able to handle successfully… If you don’t know how to use a chainsaw, you may end up cutting one of your arms… If you didn’t learn how to drive and don’t have a license a car, you’re not allowed to drive… Many example can be found… Why should it be otherwise for computers/Internet ? They are tools just like everything else… If you don’t know how to use them and do something wrong trying to use them nonetheless… I’d think that it is your own problem…

    • Mark Mayhew

      you and me both (think this is “amazing”)

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  • light dArk WithiN'

    darn nutheadz….lottaz dozn’t seemz to know….
    thrz a “check box”….to choZzz to make a article/commentz +++ private, public or to chozzZZ who seez info u providez….
    damn “INTERNET” itz totally “PUBLIC”….
    d onny difference between other social sitez n’ FB iz…how much solution or simplicity to use it or make/creat n’ keep ur account as u want it to be….
    like Mr. Billy said…anything done on the internet only has so much privacy involved, if it’s something you never want {}what{} anyone to find out ever… don’t put it on the internet n’ +++”

  • Michael

    No argument from me there :) I just think of my parents clicking on the “You’ve Won!” advertisements to thinking about them posting “Join us for our son’s graduation party on May 15th at 8pm at our home in Mountain View” — they have so few friends (on FB, in general, some of their closest friends), that they’ll inherently trust that their content is as secretive as email.

    • Mathieu Lemoine

      BTW, e-mail (unless encrypted) are NOT secure… no more than any other letter you’d send using whatever snail mail service you may choose…

    • light dArk WithiN'

      iskiskiskisk…..michael @ cycle….without wheels
      rich u by ur knowledge
      po_Ol ur parentz by lackin’ knowledge….
      u’ls try teach ’em…..really ma8 believe……..

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  • Steven

    Check out some of the racist ba$tards that you can find:

  • David Murphy

    Kind of shocking how many people have public status updates ranting about how stupid their boss is. One person was said he was going to beat up that “c*nt”.

    Sure, these people should be smarter in setting their privacy settings.

    But I still believe Facebook’s privacy situation is a real disaster.

  • Gilbert

    Kurrently at provides real time search for both Facebook and Twitter and allows newer results to enter the page as they get published.

    • Mark Mayhew

      this site, facebooksearch, allows me to search conversations on Facebook in near real-time?
      nah, that’s not gonna go over too big ;)

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  • disagree

    Oh my god!

    Like statuses on twitter aren’t public.

    Get over it, there is NO PRIVACY on the internet. If you want privacy, DO NOT put it ONLINE or put it on your OWN server – and by that I mean a server in YOUR OWN garage.

    Again, DO NOT use public services for PRIVATE data. IT WILL become PUBLIC.

    Furthermore, WHO GIVES A F*** about your latest status updates.

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