Facebook Search Now Finds Public Posts—So Hide Yours
Last year, Facebook helpfully introduced a feature that made individual posts searchable, rather than just people and brands. At the time, search was limited to friends. Now, it includes all public posts, including yours, making this an excellent time for a Facebook privacy refresher.
There are plenty of good reasons to make search wide open, like being able to follow attitudes about a specific news story, or a collection of adorable Bernese mountain dogs. There’s plenty of downside as well, though, especially if your Facebook history includes incriminating pictures and posts of that no-pants kegger in ’06. Facebook has over two trillion posts in its index, several of which are yours.
Here’s a Facebook-provided example of how a typical search might work, to better understand the ramifications:
Neat! Now replace “water on mars” with “drunk butts lol,” and your name showing up under Public Posts header.
That may not bother you one bit, which denotes an admirable degree of self-confidence. If it does, though, here’s how to make your public posts private.
For Future Posts
See that little lock in the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook page? Click that. Then click Who can see my stuff?
Fortunately, Facebook doesn’t make you decide privacy settings on each individual post. Under Who can see my future posts? you’ll see two primary options: Public or Friends. If you want your posts going forward to be included on Facebook Search, go with Public. If not, go with Friends. If you want to shout into a void, click on More options and select Only Me.
You can also get more granular with which friends get to see what. While you’re still in More options, go to Custom, where you’ll be able to allow (or disallow) specific friends or lists to access everything you post from here on out.
Adjusting these settings obviously isn’t permanent, and you’ll still be given the option on each individual post of whether you’d like it public or strictly for friends.
A word of caution! Facebook will automatically make your most recent privacy setting your default going forward. So if you decide to make a specific post public, remember to go back to your settings and put it back to friends only (or whatever your customized preference).
For Past Posts
Safeguarding your future is one thing; protecting your past is another. To retroactively hide your social media shames from the world, go back to the lock icon and click See More Settings.
From there, under Who can see my stuff?, you have two options. The more labor intensive is Review all your posts and things you’re tagged in, which takes you to an activity log where you can adjust privacy for every single Facebook post you’re affiliated with since you first joined. Good luck and see you in 50 years!
The brute force approach is probably more effective for most. Still under Who can see my stuff?, click on Limit Past Posts.
You’ll see a warning that explains that this tool will limit all of your past posts to an audience of your friends, which is good, because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. If there are specific posts that you’d rather be public or visible to friends of friends, you can always go back and adjust them on an individual basis.
Once you click Limit Old Posts you will get another warning, so, you know, consider yourself warned.
Click confirm, and your entire Facebook history will be locked down to your extremely intimate circle of 2,800 Facebook friends.
What You Can’t Hide
While Facebook lets you actively manage how posts and photos you’re tagged in appear in your own Timeline, and whether people can tag you at all (go to the lock icon, to See More Settings, to Timeline and Tagging), you can’t stop people from mentioning you or sharing a picture of you. That’s likely not going to be as much of an issue for something like public search, or rather, public search doesn’t make it much more of an issue than it already was. Still, the more you know!
Otherwise, you should be all set! Facebook’s new public search should be wonderfully informative, maybe even transformative in terms of how we process news and relate to the world around us. Fortunately, you also don’t have to be a part of it if you don’t want to.