Last evening Mark Zuckerberg stood in front of the assembled media and announced a new search engine which would be coming to Facebook soon.
Graph search is Facebooks way of increasing connections through the site. Up until now, users mainly search for friends, products and groups by using names. In the case of individuals this means you really need to know someone’s name to find them. Graph search works differently.
Facebook’s announcement and introduction give some examples of how the new search will work.
Search: Photo’s I like
That sounds handy. I can view all the photos I liked and review whether I still ‘like’ them.
Search: Restaurants my friends have been to in London
A quick way to find the places your ‘friends’ would recommend, and perhaps more likely, the ones they wouldn’t. Super.
Search: People who like cycling and live in my hometown
This is where my worries start to kick in. Lets suggest someone with less honorable intentions might change part of that search. They could change it for example to:
Search: People who like Mushi Monsters and live in my hometown
This tool suddenly takes on a more sinister application. Facebook users are being given a chance to find new people, close by, just by searching interests.
Facebook were quick to point out in their press conference that the new engine only reports information we have made public. Accounts created by users between the ages of 13-18 who have given their true date of birth, should be protected then. However there is plenty of evidence to suggest that young people don’t always sign up with a true DOB. I’ve seen it myself.
Graph search is going to make it much easier for other users to find those things you’ve forgotten or not managed to protect. If someone finds you via your public ‘like’ of a organisation, service or person, are you OK with how that person may perceive you?
Facebook has never made it’s privacy settings easy to navigate, but if you can get to grips with them, they are pretty good. So take the opportunity before launch to revisit your privacy settings. Think about the level of privacy you’re comfortable with, and seek help if you’re not sure. Then pop a date in your diary to look again next month.
And please, don’t accept friends requests from people you don’t already know in ‘real life’.
Facebook Privacy Guides
Photo by thoss003 used under Creative Commons with thanks.