Facebook Google Indexing Tempest in a Teapot

Earlier today I started getting status updates from friends that read

If you don’t know, as of today, Facebook will automatically index all your publicly available info on Google, which allows everyone to view it. To change this option, go to Settings –> Privacy Settings –> Search –> then UN-CLICK the box that says ‘Allow indexing’. Facebook kept this one quiet. Copy and paste onto your status for all on your news feed.

Facebook’s chain letter detection kicked in (not sure if that was an automatic or manual process) to deter future exact duplicates of that status update. This made people all the more suspicious about why Facebook would be blocking their attempts to warn about Facebook privacy.
If you did wander over to the Facebook privacy page you’d see the following message from Facebook.

Worried about privacy? Your information is safe.
There have been misleading rumors recently about Facebook indexing all your information on Google. This is not true. Facebook created public search listings in 2007 to enable people to search for your name and see a link to your Facebook profile.

Security hoaxes have been around forever. Misconceptions about genuine security threats are tough to deal with. While Facebook has made some debatable privacy changes lately, I believe Facebook is right that the search settings are hardly new. What really matters is the security settings you place on you data.
When someone asks you to share information with everyone you know, as this dire warning did, unless its the Gospel of Jesus, I think your crap detector should be sounding the alarm. If the source is not a computer security expert stop and ask if it makes sense. If the source IS a computer security expert stop and ask if it makes sense and then make sure your wallet hasn’t been stolen by the security expert.
Search engines index Facebook status, but only the status that has the Everyone permission. If you’re going to freak out, do it by reviewing your privacy settings. You know, the privacy settings Facebook had you review this week. Everyone means everyone on the internet.

2 Comments

  1. Unfortunately, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. Sort of. It looked like a rumour to me too, but as I tracked it, I couldn’t find it in any of the usual rumour-busting places. So, I kept tracking.
    What set off this round of ‘rumors’ is the release of Google Real-Time Search. The first link is from a CNN report, which is about the only thing i found earlier with any specifics. The second link is the Google Blog where the roll-out was, actually kinda’ surreptitiously proclaimed. Who starts their day with the Google blog? Maybe we’d better.
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/12/07/google.real.time.search/index.html
    “…Facebook updates posted to public Facebook Pages will be indexed, while any MySpace update designated as public will appear in search results…”
    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/relevance-meets-real-time-web.html

  2. public data is public data. That is the real concern. Your security settings. Implying that Facebook is doing something underhanded as these status updates were doing is wrong and dangerous because it distracts people from the real issue. Whether or not search engines provide supposedly realtime search results for Facebook as they already do for Twitter is not much of a security issue if you dont make your data public.
    If its public someone is already mirroring it somewhere else where your facebook noindex setting wont have any effect

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