Facebook kills off private accounts


When journalist Alex Hern needed to set up a Facebook account in order to manage the Guardian's technology page and other work-related things, he locked down its privacy settings so that the account's profile would not appear in searches and only Friends of Friends could add him as a friend. In October 2017, Hern discovered that these settings no longer applied: an update to Facebook's internal search engine gave users the ability to search the entire network. While private posts remained private, public posts became searchable for everyone. Facebook also removed the ability to hide your profile from strangers. Hern discovered that while he could still block strangers from adding him as a Friend, he could be "Followed" by them because the setting to block that was not under the privacy settings but under Follower settings. More important, Hern found that despite his privacy settings Facebook had enough information about him to recommend Friends that included people he knew in real life.

Tags: Facebook, usability, privacy settings, design
Writer: Alex Hern
Publication: Guardian

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