[Updated March 2013]
Have you Google’d yourself lately? (Or Bing’d yourself? Or Yahoo’d yourself? Why do these terms sound a little dirty?) If you have, you might have seen that one of the top results is your Facebook profile. You can prevent that from happening if you want to make it a little bit harder for people to find you.
What will people see if they click your Facebook profile from a Search Engine Result Page?
1. If they are NOT signed in to their own Facebook account, they will see limited information from your profile. This will be based on your privacy settings for certain portions of your profile. For example they might see your activities and interests if you have set those to “Public”. They will not see your list of friends, wall, or photos. They will however see your profile photo.
Here’s an example. I found my brother’s profile with a simple search (name blurred to protect the innocent). His Facebook profile was at the top of the search results list. So any former flame who may be trying to track him down (and I bet there are many) will be successful in their search and will find that he’s into music, went to bars in the 70’s and 80’s, and has a cute kid.
2. If they ARE signed into their own Facebook account, they will see any information that you have set to “Public” on your profile. (For my brother that was only his Friends list. Nicely locked-down profile, bro!)
How to hide your Facebook Profile from Search Engines
If you would prefer NOT to have your Facebook profile listed when people search for you on Google or other search engines, here is how you can prevent it.
1. Go to your Privacy Settings.
2. Next to the section “Who can look me up?” find the words “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?”
3. Click “Edit”.
4. Make sure the box next to “Let other search engines link to your timeline” is UNCHECKED. Click Close.
5. You will get a prompt asking you if you are sure. Click Confirm. The changes won’t be instant; your profile may still be found for a while until the search engines catch up to this change.
That’s it! Note that this does NOT prevent people from finding you from within Facebook. But it does add at least a little extra layer of protection if you prefer to remain incognito.
Teens on Facebook
If you’re a parent and your teen is on Facebook, note that accounts will always have this option unchecked. Thanks to reader Liz for pointing this out. Learn how Privacy works for minors.
Now if you DO want your Facebook page to come up in a general web search, that’s fine too. You might want to be more “visible”, say to former school-mates or potential employers. If that is the case, there is really no harm in having your profile available as long as you are careful about what information is made “public” on your profile.
So do a search for yourself. If you don’t like what you see, you can take this one small step towards controlling your digital footprint.