Universal Facebook Search: Privacy Problem?

There’s a new way to search in Facebook, called Universal Search. What that means is that you are no longer limited to searching for just people, pages and groups in the Facebook search. If you type a topic into the box, you’ll also see recent posts from friends and public posts in the results. For the most part public posts are those made by pages set up for public figures and businesses.


The default mode for Facebook posts in friends only, but some people choose to make public posts. Either they don’t care if the world sees their posts or they choose that option for a specific post. A reason you might choose to make a post public could be that you have a missing pet, and you want as many people as possible to be able to see it. Perhaps your child left a toy on a plane, and you’d like the widest possible audience to attempt to retrieve it.

You’ll see a lot of panicked news stories out there telling you to check your privacy settings. Here’s the deal: You should always be aware of your privacy settings. And everyone has always been able to see your public Facebook posts. That’s why you made it public, you wanted everyone to see it.  Let’s take a look at how Universal Search works.

I put in the term Halloween and I see results for a trending news story on Halloween and photos about Halloween posted by my friends.


As I scroll down the results, I’ll see public posts about Halloween, like this one by Rolling Stone.


Then I see posts by my friends.


I can’t see posts by people who aren’t my friends unless those posts are public. Universal search does not change who is allowed to view your posts. It might be easier to find them, but public posts have always been public and anyone can see them. How do you know if a post is public? The default settings for posts is friends only. So unless you made some changes, only your friends can view your posts. But it doesn’t hurt to double-check your privacy settings.

Here’s a quick way to tell if your post is public. You’ll see little icon on the post with an arrow next to it. If the icon looks like a couple of people, that means you have it set to only share with friends.


Let’s click the drop-down menu and check out the other options. The little globe icon would indicate that it was a public post. You can easily change that by choosing one of the other options.  You can choose the lock icon to make a post only visible to you or the gear icon to customize the settings and make it visible only to certain friends.


Universal Search looks like it could be a great tool for searching and it won’t affect your current privacy settings. If you haven’t checked them lately, you really should.

~ Cynthia

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