Facebook Graph Search: The Good, The Bad and The Scary

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Facebook has always had issues when it comes to privacy. Each time the social media giant comes out with a new feature, it seems there is an uproar by privacy advocates about the implications and potential security issues. This took place with the Timeline switch, the sponsored stories debacle, and now one of Facebook’s newest features, Graph Search, is in the hot seat.

Let’s take a closer look at this new tool and find out what it is, why you would use it, and how to protect yourself from its prying eyes.

Currently, Graph Search is not available to everyone. Just as the Timeline feature was rolled out, Graph Search is being offered by invitation only. While it will soon be available to everyone, the inability for everyone to see the product for themselves has only lent to its mystery. So, let’s go ahead and break this down.

The intention of Graph Search is to help Facebook users be able to search for more meaningful things.

For instance, a user could type in “friends who like golf” to find out which of your friends you should invite out for a round on the greens. Users can also search beyond their friends. Any information that is public will appear in a Graph Search.

So if users want to find “people in San Diego who like donuts” to invite to your donut shop, they can. Graph Search is really, perhaps, the first “social” search engine where social factors play into your search results. Google began attempting this by incorporating Google+ activity into their search results, but Graph Search is much more on the money for a truly social search experience.

The Point of Graph Search

The purpose, of course, is to help people find things that they like.

But this also means that people can use the technology to find things that you may not want them to find. On the other hand, using Facebook’s current search to find which of your friends likes ham sandwiches would require you to go to each of their profiles and look at their “Likes” to see if they do, in fact, like ham sandwiches. If you want to know which of Facebook’s enormous number of users like ham sandwiches, you can imagine the time that would take.

With Graph Search, all of the time spent searching is cut out by the new ”built in” technology. This is wonderful if you are actually using Graph Search for its intended purposes.

However, if someone decides to use the technology for nefarious purposes, they surely can do so. There is the opportunity for scam artists and identity thieves to obtain information about an individual and use that for social engineering.

Social engineering is when someone manipulates another person into performing actions or divulging confidential information. Victims of social-engineering scams often hand over personal information to the social engineer because the perpetrator already knows so much about the victim. This is where easy access to information turns dangerous.

In order to protect yourself from becoming a target to identity thieves, there are simple steps you can take:

Make sure that your privacy settings are up-to-date and at the appropriate level. Facebook has even put out a tutorial to help users with their privacy settings. Y
You should also go through your “Likes” and other sections of your “info” section. Make sure that there is nothing you would not want the public to see. If you liked something potentially offensive as a joke in the past, someone who uses Graph Search will be able to see that and chances are they won’t get the joke.

With proper privacy settings and a little clean up, Graph Search will not find you surprised by private information in the public. So do not fear this new Facebook feature, but do be knowledgeable enough to protect your privacy.

This is actually a very good motto for any of your online activities.

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Nikki Junker

Nikki Junker is Social Media Coordinator and Victim Advisor at The Identity Theft Resource Center. She specializes in Identity Theft on social networks and smartphones. She enjoys working one on one with victims of identity theft as well as researching and writing about preventative measures for consumers.