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.
4. Go through your friends and make lists.
This is the one that can take the most time. You can create different lists of people who have different access to your information. For instance, you might not want your coworkers to be able to see or search for any of your photos. Go to your Friends list from your Timeline and you can see which of your friends is on which list. You can even create new lists and permissions for each list. Lastly, you can view your Timeline as that person by going back to that lock icon in the top right corner, selecting "Who can see my stuff?" and selecting "What do other people see on my Timeline?" From there you can view your info as if you were them.
5. Keep it up.
Lastly make sure you keep an eye on what you share and with whom you share it. The search function is going to make finding infomation much easier on Facebook. Just make sure you want the info you share to be found.