Facebook is treading carefully after it announced it will delete an old privacy setting, that enables users to opt out of its internal search by first or last name.

The Menlo Park, California-based company actually eliminated this feature last year for users who didn’t select the setting, but now it’s killing it completely for everybody in the next few weeks. Only a small percentage of Facebook members were using it, the company said.

Unwanted Searches

The feature was intended to keep users out of showing up in unwanted searches by non-friends. The feature did not preclude friends from searching for friends; with the option removed, any member of Facebook can search for any other member without restrictions.

Facebook created the privacy setting before it implemented its new Graph Search and when the social network was simply a directory of profiles. The company said in its corporate blog that it now believes this option has become more confusing than useful. Graph Search enables members to search for each other, for status updates, and for open groups that show profile pictures and images to anyone in the group.

For example, the setting didn’t prevent people from navigating to an individual’s Timeline by clicking a name in a story in News Feed, or from a mutual friend’s Timeline.

Today, users also can search Facebook using Graph Search (for example, “People who live in San Francisco”), making it more important for them to control the privacy of the things they share rather than how people get to their Timelines, the company said.

User Confusion

The setting also made the search feature feel broken at times, Facebook said. For example, people told Facebook 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 said that this search setting won’t disappear for those still using it until those users get a notification and click a button reading, “Okay, I understand.”  Those notifications will be going out in coming weeks, the company said.

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Originally published on eWeek.

Chris Preimesberger

Editor of eWEEK and repository of knowledge on storage, amongst other things

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