Facebook rolling out search history controls… which begs the question, why do we need them?

facebook searchIn what seems like the Nth feature release this weekend, Facebook has announced an update to its Activity Log. The Activity Log, if you remember, was introduced last year, giving users a way to see a concrete list of their Facebook actions and give us increased control over their visibility.

activity log searchesNow, Facebook is also including the ability to view and remove search history on the site as we see fit. “You’ll be able to see the searches you’re making on Facebook. Just as you can choose to delete any of your posts, you can use the same inline control on Activity Log to remove any of your searches at any time,” Facebook explains, via press release. “It’s important to remember that no one else can see your Activity Log, including your search activity.”

Before the update (which hasn’t been entirely rolled out just yet but will be over the next few weeks), the Activity Log would give data like posts you’d commented on, photos you’d posted, things you’d liked – but anything entered into the search bar wasn’t visible. Now, along with a list of those actions, you’ll see what (or, more likely, who) you searched for, and have the ability to delete it.

Right now, no one can see his or her own or other users’ Facebook searches. It’s all entirely private, or at least hidden from our eyes. When you search for your high school best friend, there’s no record (at least not user-facing) of that search – which is why this new tool feels like a preemptive measure. Why would Facebook give us a product that essentially gives us a high degree of control over a list of searches and how visible they are unless we needed it? What this change indicates should be pretty clear: Facebook will be saving your search history and also giving you edit capabilities. I reached out to Facebook for comment but had not heard back as of press time. 

Facebook has landed itself in hot water before by introducing features that make our every social-network related move more shareable and more detectable. Usually, the cycle goes as follows: Facebook introduces feature, backlash occurs, Facebook scales back said feature with privacy in mind. For instance, Sponsored Stories weren’t opt out to begin with… and then suddenly, one lawsuit later, they were.

It stands to reason that Facebook is introducing the new feature in advance of something more to come – CEO Mark Zuckerberg did recently allude to the network’s search ambitions. “It’s one of the kind of obvious things that would be interesting for us to do in the future,” he has said. 


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