Privacy concerns pop up in new Graph Search

facebook-graph-search

Ever since Facebook’s release of Graph Search last week, all we’ve been hearing is a lot of noise.  Let’s filter out the noise and see why it brings up worries, and what to do to wash them away.

The new search uses our profile information like connections, photos, likes, and interests to create a large database in which we can search for things that we’d normally never get results for. For example, “photos of my friends taken in Paris” or “people who like Game of Thrones and basketball.” The purpose of it is to make it much easier to find specific information about Facebook users. Since it works around your connections everyone’s search results are unique and different, just like us!

Up until now it’s been a pretty rough ride trying to follow Facebook’s evolving (you can call it eroding) privacy settings. At the beginning of Facebook (or time, some may say) your profile and posts were automatically set to private. So if you wanted privacy, you got it. But as the years passed, Facebook added lots of cool doodads, and as they did they slowly changed the automatic privacy settings for your profile to “public”. So now, only if you stay on top of your settings, taking all your posts off of “public” as they go live, can you have privacy. This pretty neat infographic shows how those default privacy settings changed heaps since it became a fad in 2006.

So getting back to Graph Search – It sounds like a pretty fantastic tool but now it’s even tougher to hold on to your privacy. In a blog created by Tom Scott who had early access to the search tool, a bunch of controversial search results, like the one below, are shown to express the privacy concerns that come up with Facebook’s new gadget.

Image from http://actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com/
Image from http://actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com/

Clearly that example is extreme. I mean, who has such little tact to the point where, not just their privacy but their life may be in danger?! A more down-to-earth search done was “married people who like prostitutes”, and another with “single women who live nearby and who are interested in men and like getting drunk”. Also as a side note, sometimes “likes” or other information are posted ironically or as a joke so the results aren’t always reliable but you get the point, right?

The way you show up in the search all depends on your privacy settings, which range from allowing the public, only your friends, or just you to view something. Settings haven’t been reset, thank goodness, which happened last time Facebook made a major update. But if you haven’t yet taken your profile information off “public” (the default setting) and you don’t want to show up in some random bloke’s search results, I suggest you take an hour now to change them with this helpful guide from Mashable. Or if want to sleep really well at night you can even remove some of the information from your profile.

“Other than making their profiles completely private, there is no way for users to opt out of having their information available to Graph Search.” Matt Buchanan, The New Yorker

Feel free to sound off below 🙂

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