10 September 2013

Facebook Graph Search: New Product Launch

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Click to Sign Up for the Beta Version

The Facebook Graph Search function was first announced by Mark Zuckerberg on January 15th 2013. The function was stated to be a tool which enabled users to uniquely structure online searches. At the time Zuckerberg explained how the Facebook Graph Search feature differs from a traditional web search. “We are not indexing the web. We are indexing our map of the graph, which is really big and constantly changing. Almost a million new people every day. 240 billion photos. 1 billion people. 1 trillion connections.”

Seven months later on July 8th Facebook Graph Search emerged from beta when the final version became available to the U.S. users of the platform. It was explained in January that traditional search tools scan the web for results which match a specific key word or phrase. However Facebook Graph Search differs, as it combines “phrases (for example: ‘my friends in New York who like Jay-Z’) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook.”

The keyword for Facebook Graph Search is my friends. This is because Facebook Graph Search is intended for use with information that your friends have shared. Despite this there is nothing to stop users from embarking on more diverse searches. In fact the limits of the new Facebook Graph Search are limited only by the user’s imagination- or their desires and motives.

Whilst it is true that users can Facebook Graph Search just about anything, a search beyond your friends will only provide information which has been made available to the general public. Zuckerberg was keen to state back in January that Facebook Graph Search was a privacy aware function. Due to this it is based entirely on data and information from users, which users have been sharing prior to the features introduction. Therefore information which you share publically will remain public, whilst information shared strictly with only your friends will be unavailable to users who are not your friend on the social media platform. However as promised, the launch of the beta version triggered no noticeable changes in the platforms privacy settings.

Three factors to consider with the new Facebook Graph Search feature

  1. Do you trust your friends to keep information surrounding your guilty pleasures secret? The new Facebook Graph Search may result in embarrassing personal information becoming public knowledge. Due to this it is well worth reviewing your personal information and likes in line with the launch of Facebook Graph Search.
  2. How many embarrassing pictures are contained in your online archive? You may have removed them from your newsfeed. Despite this users will still be able to access them using the Facebook Graph Search feature. For example, this means that if your boss or future employers do a graph search of your photos, they will be able to see these embarrassing images. Therefore it is well worth your time going through your images, and un-tagging or deleting ones which you do not wish to be publically associated with.
  3. The final thing to consider is the actual content you submit on the platform. This point highlights two inconvenient truths:
  • The vast majority of wounds to privacy online, whether on Facebook or any other website, are self inflicted. When posting content it is worth bearing in mind the words of Tom Scott: “if it’d be awkward if it was put on a screen in Times Square, don’t put it on Facebook.”
  • Despite the privacy assurances of Facebook, Graph Search does make just about everything publically available. Think about Facebook as a massive archive, indexing the preferences and likes of a wide number of individuals. The Graph Search enables anyone to search by name, preference or both.

In reaction to the new Facebook Graph Search launch there are several things you should consider doing.  These measures should begin with a Facebook privacy audit. Look at what content you share publically, with friends only and also with nobody it at all. This is worth doing as quickly as possible. You should also become proactive in governing your privacy. Review your shares, posts and pictures. Now is also the time to review your friends, do you need all 854 of them? Browse and change your application settings accordingly.  Also consider setting notifications each time you are tagged in content or a picture, so you can act accordingly.  Despite the potential drawbacks poised by Facebook Graph Search it presents an excellent tool, enabling people to connect on the platform at a much deeper level than was previously possible.