Facebook’s Scary New Button

Ever wonder just how much information Facebook is really collecting about you? The social networking giant just made it easier to tell, with a new button at the top of your profile page.

This is what it looks like, in a screen shot from my profile page:

Facebook Activity Log

If you click it, it will show you the public record of what you’ve done on Facebook.  This is a good thing — it saves you from scrolling through Timeline to see if you really did post that meme or not. In the screen shot below, for instance, it shows that the first thing I did on Facebook this morning was congratulate my friend, Kiwi photographer Desmond Downs, on his forthcoming ebook, and like the new page he posted for the book.  

Facebook Activity Log 2

Note that on the left side, it lets you display your posts, posts you’re tagged in, posts by others, and posts you’ve hidden.  Nothing very scary there, right?  Ah, but check the little box on the right side, and it will show you “Only Me” activity.  This includes all the stuff that’s hidden from Timeline, such as the searches you’ve done, the apps you considered downloading (but didn’t), and any action (such as deleting, editing, or hiding a post) you’ve completed.

What’s scary about that? Well, for me, it’s a reminder of just how much time I waste on Facebook — and it shows me (or anyone who clicks the button) exactly how I spend my time on Facebook. 

The good news is that you can’t click “only me” on someone else’s Facebook profile — so I can’t see what searches my husband is conducting on Facebook.  Unless, of course, I were one of those sneaky spouses who waits until he steps away from a page he’s logged in to and clicks it while he’s away from his screen.  Which, of course, I am not.

Or, of course, unless I happen to be a law enforcement officer or hacker who has gained access to a page legally or illegally — or Facebook itself.  Don’t get me wrong.  I understand why Facebook is collecting this data…and I read the terms of use contract I agreed to when I joined Facebook, so I am quite clear that tracking my every move is well within Facebook’s rights as the operator of the “it’s free and always will be” service. I also understand that search history is one of the key tools that law enforcement agents use when investigating someone.

But let’s face it, seeing my search history right there on my activity page is pretty embarrassing.  As Katie Notopoulos, a Buzzfeed columnist, wrote in her post on this subject, “Our Facebook profiles are all about who we want to be, not who we actually are. Facebook offers enough controls to tailor what actually shows up on your profile and in your friends’ news feed that most of us can get away with seeming like a half-decent human. But the search box knows our true nature.

“The opposite of our manicured social profiles is search. Search is embarrassing. Search is what we use to find out what our weird rash is or to look for topless celebrity photos. Search is our horrible, gross humanity leering back at us.”

If you’re particularly worried about someone snooping into your search history, Ms. Notopoulos posted a handy tutorial on how to erase your entire Facebook search history with a single click.  You’ll find it here on Buzzfeed.  At the same time, I’ll point out that anyone who has access to your search history also has access to your Facebook inbox and your “other mailbox”, as well as your message and chat logs.

Facebook offers this tutorial on deleting messages, and allows you to delete one or all messages, and this tutorial on how to clear your Facebook chat history.  There’s no way to replace the time wasted on Facebook searches or chat, however, so we’re on our own for that!

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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1 Response to Facebook’s Scary New Button

  1. Ann perez says:

    On my activity log, under the “search” category, there is no person’s name on those person that i have searched and iwant to retrieve them but there seems to be no prompt to do it. All i can see is : You searched for “” and follows ONLY ME which is my privacy. How come i am the owner of the account but how come I cant myself see the name of person i had searched under “search” in my activity log! Pls help me retrieve and i also want to appear it on my activity log. Thanks.

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