Facebook has now unveiled its Graph Search tool, which turns the personal information people have shared on the social network into a powerful searchable database. While it is only rolling out on a limited basis in the U.S. right now, ultimately it will allow everyone to search easily across the network and their friends' information.
Facebook made a point of telling ABC News and others that the new feature respects Facebook's current privacy settings. In fact, Facebook created a video and page just to explain to people how privacy works with the new Graph Search.
"With Graph Search, you can look up anything shared with you on Facebook, and others can find stuff you've shared with them, including content set to Public. That means different people see different results," Facebook said on the page.
While Facebook's new search tool might respect those settings, it does mean that your information will be surfaced more. "The phishers and the hackers and the ID thieves woke up to Christmas morning with all this data," John Sileo, author of "Privacy Means Profit" and an identity theft expert, told ABC News.
But that's the extreme. More realistically, it is your friends or the college admissions counselors, employers and others who might more easily discover things you thought were private.
That's why it's a very good time to review your privacy settings and go through your data on Facebook to make sure you're not sharing anything publicly that you wish you weren't.
"If someone hasn't spent 90 minutes in their privacy and security settings, they are at a significantly greater risk than they need to be," Sileo said. "Facebook does a good job of explaining what the settings are when you are looking at it, but you have to go through it."
Before Graph Search starts rolling out to a wider audience, set aside some time and follow some of these tips.
1. Set your default preferences to share with friends only.
Underneath any status update or photo you share is a small toggle that allows you to select with who you would like to share that piece of content. Set it to "Friends" and it will automatically default to that setting on anything you share. This way you know that everything you share is only going out to your Friends. You can always expand it to "Public" or "Friends of Friends" but it's better to play it safe with the default setting.
2. Go through your likes.
The Graph Search searches your likes. As Gizmodo points out, you can search for "People who like…" and it will return some shocking results. Maybe you "Liked" something in college, like "Weed" or something else that you wouldn't like at this point in your life. This is the time to go clean that up. Unlike!
3. Go through your photos.
Graph Search can also search photos. Now is the time to go through photos that are tagged of you and untag the ones you don't like or may be inappropriate. Facebook's new privacy tools have made this easier to do. Click the little lock icon in the upper right hand corner, select "Who can see my stuff?" and then "Where can I review all my posts and things I'm tagged in?" That will take you to the Activity Log, where you can select the photos tab. There you can see if photos are public or private.