Facebook Stalkers, Beware: Clear Your Searches!

I’m always a bit skeptical when I hear people bitching about Facebook or offering conspiracy theories on how this “evil” company is using our information (see “You Oughta Know: Facebook and Your Copyright“) but in this case, I’m about to advocate being very vigilant about one feature.

Your Activity Log.

Ask yourself this…would you be embarrassed/bummed/freaked out if someone were able to see who and what you search for on Facebook?

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/bbosker/status/291279133969883136″]

I’m no Facebook stalker, but like everyone else, I’ve poked around to see what former friends and boyfriends have been up to in the years since we parted. I’ve looked for some items that, out of context, might seem a bit off (Hippie Peace Freaks, for example). I also tend to use it to jump to specific friend’s profile pages so I can message them or leave a note on their Timeline.

Facebook-Search

With Facebook’s upcoming graph search (which does have the potential to be very cool), while that information still won’t be public, it could be used to help make connections and recommendations automatically.

And that’s enough to make me clear the ol’ search log.

The Huffington Post has a good tutorial here, but it’s pretty simple.

1. Go to your profile page and look for the “Activity Log” button near the right side of the screen. Click it.

2. You’ll see a dashboard for every click, search and upload you’ve ever made (yikes). Along the left sidebar, look for the “search” option — you’ll probably have to click the “more” button that is below the section that starts with “photos.”

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 9.00.22 AM

3. Voila! Every search you’ve made. You can delete one by one or clear all, which is what I did.

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 9.00.29 AM 4. Do this every once in a while, because when you clear it, it only gets rid of past items and doesn’t block the activity log from recording new searches.

Note that you can do this with other activity, so if you’re concerned, you might want to do a little housekeeping.

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Comments

  1. says

    Eek! So glad you posted this. I’m no stalker (would I admit if I was?), but like you, Katy, I use FB search to quickly go to certain friends’ timelines to leave a message. Just cleared that way-too-big boy. ;-)

  2. says

    So glad I saw this! Question, this information is still all private though, right? No one can see it unless they are logged into your account?

    • says

      Yup, it’s private — but the info is used for making connections with the new open graph. So, let’s say you searched 100 times for Billy Bob. When FB is looking to connect you with new people or with pages, it will assume that you’re interested in Billy Bob and might make some embarrassing recommendations :)

  3. says

    Great post, Katy! We sometimes search people for our outdoor trips with young adult cancer survivors to get a feel for them during our “interview” process before the trips (I’m sure they do it to us!); good to know and I just told my husband – searches, cleared! (glad to see the ex-boyfriend didn’t show up on there much! lol)

  4. says

    Well, I personally wouldn’t be embarassed if people saw what I searched for on Facebook but I think the real issue here is about privacy. I do want my privacy respected and secure on Facebook. Good alert too.

  5. Aphalicious says

    OMG I didnt see the button you were talking about but I went into privacy settings and found it that way. EEEKK! the problem is…. I don’t have a delete or clear button at all :( How do I clear it?

    • says

      Let me make sure you’re taking these steps, because I’m not sure why you’re not seeing the button.

      1) use Facebook as your personal account, not a page
      2) go to your profile page and click the “Activity Log” button (it’s to the right of “update profile,” above your photos and other apps
      3) on the left, find the “search” link — you will probably have to click the “more” button under photos, likes, comments

      Once you click the search button, you should a “clear searches” link at the top/right.

      I don’t think you’ll have the same success going through your privacy settings, so I hope this helps!

  6. Sally says

    EEK!! This is scary stuff. I’m not so sure this clearing the search helps though! :'( I have been periodically stalking the FB page of a guy I like, and he has only met me a couple of times and probably doesn’t even know my name. HOWEVER, he (well, his profile pic) started popping up every time I started a new search. Naturally I was horrified by this, due to the terrible thought “what if I am now popping up in his searches?”. In blind panic I searched for info and advice and was found my way here. Cleared all of my searches (took at least a minute!) and did a little test. He is STILL popping up whenever I start a new search with the first letter of his name!! HEEEEEEELP!!! I am worried to ever cross paths with him again – the shame!!! :'( x

    • says

      Seriously, I know…there are a few old boyfriends that I like to keep tabs on and I’d be mortified if they found out.

      Try clearing your browser cache and searches — chances are, it’s just Chrome/Firefox/Safari/whatever keeping a record of your search, not Facebook.

  7. Dee says

    Thank you so much Katy for posting this really useful information. I followed your instructions on this and it worked I will continue to do this on a regular basis. Thank you again for sharing this information!!

  8. Veronique says

    Oh, thank you thank you thank you. My heart is still beating really fast but I am glad that’s taken care of!! :P

  9. Jess says

    Ok so if I clear my searches and someone uses one of those creepy stalker apps, can they still see that I searched for them?

    • says

      That’s a tricky one to answer — I don’t know for sure, because I don’t know how those apps are set up. Facebook is the only one that has that search data, so unless the app hacks the FB database, I wouldn’t think they’d be able to access that but the apps you’re talking about aren’t always on the up-and-up, so I can’t promise anything.

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