A search feature Facebook has been testing the past few months is now publicly available. It may make it easier for people to find you or expose old posts and photos, depending on your privacy settings.
Facebook has always let you search for people and learn about them, but that feature has gotten a lot more powerful with the public release of Graph Search.
Graph Search might show lots of things about you that wouldn’t come up on a search engine — things you’ve declared or shared on Facebook, perhaps unwittingly.
For instance, your connections can now search for photos you’ve “liked.” If you have a habit of clicking the Like button for provocative photos, jokes in bad taste or political statements, that could prove embarrassing. Users can also search for restaurants and other places you’ve said you visited, pages you’ve liked, or interests you have in common with them.
In short, Graph Search makes it easier for your connections — friends, family, co-workers, classmates, maybe your boss or a crazy ex — to rummage through your entire Facebook history. It has some practical uses, such as finding restaurants your friends like in a certain area, but it’s also a little creepy.
Maybe you don’t mind that. Maybe you already carefully manage your privacy settings. But it’s only going to get more complicated since Facebook already has expansion plans for its search feature. “Later this year, Facebook intends to add the ability to search through the text of status updates as well as information posted to Facebook by some third-party applications, like hotel and restaurant review sites and the streaming music service Spotify,” The New York Times says.
That makes now a good time to learn how your privacy settings work, and make sure they’re to your liking.
Start by going to your timeline (profile) page and click “About.” In the upper right of sections such as “Work,” “Living,” and “Contact Information,” you’ll see an edit button marked with a pencil icon. Click that, and you’ll see another icon in the upper right of a new box: probably two heads (friends), but possibly a globe (public) or a gear (custom settings, which can exclude specific people). Click the icon to narrow who can see the information within that box. Make sure to click the blue save button in the lower right for each box.
It’s tedious, but you can follow those steps for any section or posting you’ve made. That little pencil icon is always in the upper right of stuff you post. To make it easier to sift through, use your activity log. Get there by clicking the lock icon in the upper right of the page and then “See More Settings” to access the privacy settings page. Your activity log can sort everything you’ve done on Facebook by time (year and month), category (likes, comments, photos) and other ways.
If you’re only concerned about what you’ve posted out in the open for anyone to see, there’s a way to quickly change the settings of any public past posts so only your friends can see them. Go back to the privacy settings page, click “Limit Past Posts,” and then you’ll see the option.
If you need more help, Business Insider has an illustrated guide to managing Graph Search privacy.