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Facebook ends ‘invisibility cloak’ for users

The social networking site says the change will not impact on privacy for users.

Image: Dave Thompson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

FACEBOOK IS ENDING a feature that allowed users to hide from the billion-plus members of the social network.

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 this week.

“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 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 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 Friday it was following the lead of Facebook to allow users’ pictures and endorsements to be used in product ads.

The change will take effect 11 November, 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.

© AFP 2013

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