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Facebook gets rid of privacy setting for Timeline searches

Facebook is getting rid of a privacy feature that let users limit who can find them on the social network.

Facebook Inc. said Thursday that it is removing a setting that controls whether a user's Timeline could be found when people search for them by name.

The company says only a very small percentage of the nearly 1.2 billion people on its network were using the setting. Facebook started phasing it out last year, removing the option for people who weren't already using it.

Facebook says users can protect their privacy by limiting the audience for each item they post about themselves. They can also block individual users from seeing their profiles in a search.

In fact, the company says, the setting may have given its users a false sense of security, because people could still find any post or photo where their name or tag appeared. "Our concern, quite frankly, is that people think it provides a level of security, but it actually doesn't," Nicky Jackson Colaco, a member of the Facebook Privacy team, told CNET last December.

Facebook announced the latest change in its privacy options in a blog post. "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," the company said.

Facebook privacy issues have been a frequent source of controversy over the years. Just last month, the Federal Trade Commission announced it was looking into a set of proposed Facebook policy changes that would allow advertisers to feature Facebook users' names, photos and "likes" without seeking explicit permission.

"[That] policy effectively says that if you continue using the site, you agree (by your continued use) that you could be featured in a future ad without further notice or compensation," wrote MoneyWatch's Kathy Kristof.

The latest changes come as Facebook has been focusing on building up its search features. It unveiled its social search tool, called Graph Search, in January, but only made it available to a limited number of users, as engineers continued to tweak and test it. Last spring, the company began rolling out Graph Search to a much wider audience.

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