How you can protect your privacy now that Facebook Graph Search is here

The Right Click

Facebook Graph Search was unveiled back in January, immediately rubbing those who prize their privacy on the social network the wrong way. Now, as Facebook begins rolling out the feature to certain users, many are left wondering how exactly to protect their privacy on Facebook and take themselves out of Graph Search.

[ Related: Facebook shadow profiles: you probably have one and don’t even know it ]

Before you don the tinfoil hat or shut down your Facebook account, Facebook Graph Search is actually quite a cool feature that you might find useful. Graph Search will let you search through information available on Facebook, and allows you to search some very specific parameters. It's focused on searching through four main broad categories, People, Photos, Places and Interests. When you perform a search, it will show you results personalized to you, including information from your friends. For example, if you search "Photos of Vancouver," any images that your friends have uploaded of the city will be shown. Or if you search "doctors who like yoga," anyone who has shared with you their occupation in the medical field and an interest in yoga will pop up in your custom search.

Because privacy has become a major issue recently for Facebook, especially in light of the bug a couple of weeks ago that was allowing people to download the phone numbers of people who had never given Facebook that information. Despite the belief early on that you wouldn't be able to opt out of Graph Search, Facebook announced in a post to its newsroom that users will be able to edit their privacy settings, and decide just how much they'll be sharing. If your language is set to English (U.S.), you'll likely see a message this week reminding you to revisit your privacy settings as more people get access to Graph Search.

If you're worried about your results popping up in potentially embarrassing searches from your friends (just visit the Actual Facebook Graph Searches Tumblr account for examples of what I mean), Gizmodo explains there are three main areas you need to think about protecting: your future posts, current posts, and posts that friends tag you in.

1. Future Posts: All Facebook posts let you individually select if it is shared with Public, Friends, Only Me, Custom, or with a specific list of people you've created. Facebook will remember whatever your last selection was, so if you always post things to just Friends, then you won't have to think about it. However if you occasionally post to Public, remember to switch your settings back on your next post.

2. Current Posts: If you're not sure you've got the right privacy settings on your Facebook posts that are on your Timeline now, you've got two options: check posts and change them individually to the privacy setting you want, or use the Limit Old Posts tool. If you click on the privacy tool on the top-right of the blue banner on any Facebook page, select 'See More Settings' and then click 'Limit Past Posts,' you can change the privacy settings on every post you've ever made to Friends only. This does change everything, however, and there's no quick way to undo this. If you want to switch a post later on back to Public, you'll have to find it again.

3. Posts from Friends: Apart from telling all of your friends to never, ever tag you in a Public post, you can review your Activity Log and address posts you've been tagged in individually. From your Profile page, click Activity Log and you'll be able to see all the activity Facebook has tracked you doing. You can also review posts you've been tagged in by friends here. If you currently don't have this feature enabled, go to Account Settings > Timeline and Tagging, and set 'Review posts friends tag you in' to on.

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