How to keep Facebook’s powerful new search engine from unearthing your old, embarrassing posts

Wait, where did that status update from 2006 come from.
Wait, where did that status update from 2006 come from.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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In a bid to keep up with social media competitors, Facebook announced today (Oct. 22) a major revamp to its stagnated search feature. The new tool lets users search for real-time news just like on Google or Twitter, and it also returns answers from any of Facebook’s two trillion posts, excluding the ones that you can’t access due to other people’s restricted privacy settings.

“We’re updating Facebook Search so that in addition to friends and family, you can find out what the world is saying about topics that matter to you,” Tom Stocky, Facebook’s VP of search, explained in a press release.

But while Facebook’s new search engine may be great for keeping up with news, it also makes posts from the past—whether intimate, damaging, or plain awkward—even easier for strangers to stumble across. So if you’ve ever posted anything with “public” settings, accidentally or otherwise, now may be the time to take a few precautions against Facebook’s all-seeing, all-sharing eye.

Make all your old posts private

Facebook, thankfully, offers a simple way for users to limit the audiences of old posts. The option is available in Settings. It doesn’t take more than a few clicks to remove all past posts from public view.

Run a few searches on yourself

If you don’t want to hide every single old post, test a few searches on yourself—and some topics you often post about—with Facebook’s new tool. Delete or privatize any problematic status updates, photos, and announcements that you wouldn’t want one billion active users to see.

Update your general privacy settings

It’s a cardinal rule of social media: Know your privacy settings. Facebook’s sharing options are sometimes hard to navigate, but make sure to keep settings at the most secure level.

For its part, Facebook says it will give users a heads up if their old posts are liked or shared when found through the new search tool. But the company hasn’t explicitly warned users about increased exposure—even though many of Facebook’s longest users probably never assumed their content would ever go so public.

Of course, according to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, privacy is no longer a social norm, anyway.