Wave Goodbye to Anonymity on Facebook

anonymityJust after I posted a week or so ago reflecting on my return to a more open Facebook existence, they’ve gone and announced that they are doing away with one of the privacy features that was so important to staying anonymous on the site.

In a blog post posted yesterday, Facebook quietly announced that they were getting rid of the ability to hide your name from searches – stating that it was irrelevant since people could still click on your name in comments that you make on other people’s timelines.

In the words of Michael Richter – Chief Privacy Officer:

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

Well, too bad for them. If I choose to be hidden from search results, then it’s my conscious choice. Facebook shouldn’t be second guessing the reasons for users to wish to remain harder to find on the site.

Apparently a ‘tiny’ proportion of Facebook’s billion plus users were making use of the privacy setting, which eh… still equates to a huge number of people. It shouldn’t really be any surprise, given that the settings were so unintuitive to find and use. Make something hard to configure, and you have a perfect excuse to remove it later when the adoption rate is relatively low.

This move essentially means that there is no way to keep out of the spotlight on Facebook any longer – confirming my belief that Facebook is designed to incrementally pull you further in to the network, even when you purposefully want to remain on the outskirts. Even if you restrict all of your posts to a limited number of people, you are still going to have to contend with the fact that people will be able to find you in searches, and explain why you have decided not to ‘confirm their friendship.

The only way to get around this will be to use a fake name and e-mail address, but that is forbidden by the site’s policies, and could see you booted for good.

Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

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