Facebook ends 'invisibility cloak' for users (Update 2)

Oct 10, 2013
In this March 15, 2013 file photo, a Facebook employee walks past a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook Inc. said Thursday Oct. 10, 2013, that it is removing a setting that controls whether users could be found when people type their name into the website's search bar. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu. File)

Facebook is ending a feature that allowed users to hide from the social network's billion-plus members.

The feature, akin to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, will be removed, meaning that someone looking for another Facebook user can more easily find that person.

"The setting was created when Facebook was a simple directory of profiles and it was very limited," said Facebook's chief privacy officer, Michael Richter.

The setting made Facebook search "feel broken at times," Richter added in a company blog Thursday.

"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."

Facebook announced last year that it was ending this feature for new users, but allowed a transition for a "small percentage" of users who had that feature enabled.

Richter said the change should not have an impact on overall privacy.

"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," he said.

Facebook, which has been under scrutiny by privacy advocates, recently revamped its search functions to include a so-called "graph search" that allows users to search through a wide range of posts on the world's biggest social network.

In a separate development, Google announced that it was following Facebook's lead for users' pictures and endorsements to appear in product ads.

The change will take effect November 11, Google said in its updated terms of service.

"We want to give you—and your friends and connections—the most useful information," the document said.

"Recommendations from people you know can really help. So your friends, family and others may see your profile name and photo, and content like the reviews you share or the ads you (liked)."

Google said users can opt out of this feature, however, and added that it will not use endorsements from users under 18.

But the Electronic Privacy Information Center said Google's shift may violate a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission because it would employ photos without user consent.

A statement from the group said the order "prohibits Google from making misrepresentations and requires the company to obtain user consent before disclosing information to third parties."

Greg Sterling, analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence, warned that the shift may backfire on Google.

"Shared endorsements could boost display ad performance but might have the unintended consequence of discouraging reviews," Sterling said.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land said Google users' pictures had already appeared in ads, but that the new policy expands the practice by allowing endorsements from "social actions" in addition to Google's +1, the equivalent of Facebook's "like" button.

"Obviously, look closely at any type of social activity you do," Sullivan said in a blog post.

"If it's tagged as public, then what you do is fodder for shared endorsements within ads, unless you opt out of ad use and also do limited sharing for non-ad use, if allowed."

Explore further: Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Facebook pushes search feature to more users

Jul 08, 2013

Users who may have grown frustrated with Facebook's rudimentary search feature are getting an updated version designed to make it easier to find people, places and photos on the site.

Recommended for you

Digital dilemma: How will US respond to Sony hack?

Dec 18, 2014

The detective work blaming North Korea for the Sony hacker break-in appears so far to be largely circumstantial, The Associated Press has learned. The dramatic conclusion of a Korean role is based on subtle ...

UN General Assembly OKs digital privacy resolution

Dec 18, 2014

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a resolution demanding better digital privacy protections for people around the world, another response to Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government spying.

Online privacy to remain thorny issue: survey

Dec 18, 2014

Online privacy will remain a thorny issue over the next decade, without a widely accepted system that balances user rights and personal data collection, a survey of experts showed Thursday.

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

c0y0te
not rated yet Oct 11, 2013
"single-digit percentage" can be from 1% to 9%. I suspect that it isn't 1, because then they would not hide it. And even if it is "only" 1%, well, that's 12 million people! Not so insignificant anymore when you look it in absolute numbers, is it?
kochevnik
1 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2013
Secutiry-state stalker dreamland
chrisp114
not rated yet Oct 11, 2013
Here are some sites to consider if you are looking for alternatives that don't violate your privacy:
DuckDuckGo (search)
Ravetree (social)
HushMail (email)
...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.