Facebook (FB) has a feature that allows a user’s timeline to not show up when someone searches them by name.
For a few more weeks, anyway. Until it goes poof.
The move screams of Facebook ignoring the privacy wishes of its users in another attempt to pump up user engagement on its site and mobile apps, but FB has given other reasons.
According to a blog post from Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Michael Richter, only a “small percentage” of users have enabled the blocking feature. Granted, with more than 1.15 billion users, that’s still a sizable number … but nonetheless, within the next few weeks, those users will be notified, and poof — that feature will be gone.
Richter also noted this problem:
“The setting also made Facebook’s search feature feel broken at times. For example, people told us that they found it confusing when they tried looking for someone who they knew personally and couldn’t find them in search results, or when two people were in a Facebook Group and then couldn’t find each other through search.”
Count me skeptical that Facebook’s engineers couldn’t simply come up with a better solution.
It’s increasingly clear that Graph Search is a critical part of FB’s strategy to grow its company and bolster the worth of Facebook stock. The system makes it easy to find users without using names — such as by specifying those that live in a particular city or have certain types of interests. Well, this increased activity also should provide Facebook with more opportunities to flash ads, which are targeted.
And Richter made no bones about Graph Search’s ability to find users:
“For example, it didn’t prevent people from navigating to your Timeline by clicking your name in a story in News Feed, or from a mutual friend’s Timeline. Today, people can also search Facebook using Graph Search (for example, “People who live in Seattle,”) making it even more important to control the privacy of the things you share rather than how people get to your Timeline.”
Yes, Facebook users still can make their content private, either at time of posting or by re-adjusting their privacy settings. But that’s always the answer every time FB completes one of its many adjustments, which seemingly add new friction to users’ quest for privacy.
There’s nothing new to this reality. Users shouldn’t expect much when it comes to privacy on Facebook, especially as it becomes more difficult to find new users and increase engagement.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.