Facebook’s Graph Search, the tool that lets you search in plain language across information shared by friends and anyone on Facebook to find stuff like “People who live in my city from my hometown,” or “Friends of friends who like Paula Dean,” or whatever other weird and terrible combination you can dream up, is now available to all users on the platform with U.S. English set as their default language.
Graph search, for those who don’t have it yet, is a pretty fun diversion and an admittedly useful tool in certain contexts (like looking up people you might want to connect with when visiting a new place for the first time, and who might be connected to you in some meaningful way), but it’s also the perfect opportunity for everyone to revisit their privacy settings, especially as Graph Search improvements on the roadmap for future introduction include even more granular capabilities, like parsing individual posts and comments, and becoming available on mobile.
As Facebook itself notes, that means this is when you should be looking at who has access to what in your FB privacy settings, to insure that the unprecedented scope of the new Graph Search tools don’t encroach on territory you’d rather keep private… but the full roll-out of Graph Search also comes alongside the death of one of the features that might be most sorely missed by Facebook users who also happen to be privacy enthusiasts.
Facebook announced back in December that it would be retiring the “who can look up my timeline by name?” setting in the “coming months,” citing very limited use anyway, and the fact that it actually didn’t prevent discovery from other means anyway. What it did was prevent people from seeing you in results if they searched for your name directly in the Facebook Search bar – which, despite their attempt to minimize its importance, was probably something people who didn’t like it very much appreciated being able to turn off.
The official line from Facebook is that “[n]ow that people have had an opportunity to explore [its new privacy controls introduced back in December,] we are starting to retire this setting for the small percentage of people that use it.” But that’s likely to do much to reassure users who aren’t thrilled about Graph Search’s advanced discovery powers to begin with. Still, Facebook has been very upfront about its goals: you don’t build a knowledge graph by defaulting to making your social network as private as possible.