It may have been a long time coming, but those hidden in plain sight on Facebook are in for a rude awakening in the weeks ahead.
The social network said Thursday that it is, as privacy setting that allowed members to prevent themselves from appearing in search results. Facebook first put the setting, called "Who can look up your Timeline by name?," on life support in December of last year, removing it for people who weren't using it. Now, it's ready to finish off the job., killing off a
Simply put, the setting let people hide their Timelines -- aka profiles -- from public view. Members could use it to control if they could be found, and by whom, when other people typed their name into the Facebook search bar.
"For the small percentage of people still using the setting, they will see reminders about it being removed in the coming weeks," Facebook announced in a blog post on the change. "Whether you've been using the setting or not, the best way to control what people can find about you on Facebook is to choose who can see the individual things you share."
The change is bound to cause some confusion, if not stir up strong emotions. Privacy and Facebook have always had a complicated relationship, and now it's as if the company is decreeing: if you're a member, you can be found, and what people find on your Timeline is entirely up to you.
For its part, Facebook will remind people with an on-site notice that when they post something publicly, the post can be seen by anyone, including people they may not know. It should also be noted that Timelines will not be visible to people you've blocked.
Facebook's argument in eliminating the setting is that it gave people a false sense of security. "Our concern, quite frankly, is that people think it provides a level of security, but it actually doesn't," Nicky Jackson Colaco, a member of the Facebook Privacy team, said in an interview with CNET in December.
The social network contends that the setting never prevented people from finding Timelines in other ways such as clicking on a name in a status update. Another plausible motivation behind the change is improving the quality of the people results in Graph Search, Facebook's nascent natural language search engine.
The extra-long warning or the seemingly rational explanation may do little to temper the concerns of those who have clung to the last bit of anonymity they have left on the social network. But ready or not, Facebook search here you come.
Update at 2:45 p.m. PTThe headline on this story was shortened to avoid confusion. As noted above, your Timeline will not be visible to people you have blocked.