How Facebook Hashtags Impact Your Privacy

Facebook users: Get ready to see a lot more of the hashtag in your News Feed.

The social network announced yesterday that it is rolling out the popular feature to users over the next few weeks.

Hashtags, made famous by microblogging site Twitter and used on a number of other social sites such as Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, turn topics and phrases into clickable links on your personal timeline or your Page. They also make your post searchable.

"To date, there has not been a simple way to see the larger view of what's happening or what people are talking about," says Greg Lindley, product manager at Facebook. Hashtags, he says, will help bring more conversations to the forefront.

According to Facebook, hashtags will appear blue and will redirect to a search page with other posts that include the same hashtag.

As part of the rollout, Facebook says you will also be able to click hashtags that originated on other services, such as Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. It also plans to roll out additional features, including trending hashtags, in the near future, it says.

While hashtags are widely used on other sites, there are a couple of things you need to know about the new feature and how it does and doesn't affect your Facebook privacy.

First, adding a hashtag does not affect the privacy of your post. If your privacy settings are set to Friends, for example, only your friends can view it. Similarly, if your friends search for a hashtag that you've used in the past, your post will appear only to them-and no one else-in search results, Facebook says.

"As always, you control the audience for your posts, including those with hashtags," Lindley says.

Second, if you use a hashtag in a post you publish and you want it to be searchable to everyone, remember that your most-recent privacy setting is the one Facebook will default to for subsequent posts, unless you change it back.

<[Want more tips, tricks and details on Facebook? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Guide.]

For example, say your privacy settings are "Friends Only." You decide to change the privacy setting for one particular post to "Public." Your subsequent posts will be public unless you change it back to "Friends Only."

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and social business for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at kburnham@cio.com

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