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Understanding Facebook's Graph Search
By: Jessica Cherok
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Maybe you’re one of the many who has been laid up with the flu recently and missed Facebook’s big announcement this past week. Hopefully now you’re feeling better and can have enough energy to understand just what exactly Facebook’s Graph Search is, and what it means for your privacy.

First, Facebook unveiled its newest feature last Tuesday, but make no mistake — the Graph Search tool is only new to us, the user. For a couple of years now, people have speculated, and Facebook has hinted, that the company would make a move into the creation of its own search engine to rival Google. As people used Facebook, data from the 1 billion users was collected, sorted, and stored.

Immediately after the announcement, people became concerned with what Graph Search meant for their privacy, and who could potentially have access to their information. Facebook has had a sordid history with exposing people’s information with its new features, and it has had to backpedal to shore up loopholes and assuage fears. The company made sure to include in its announcement that privacy was foremost on their agenda when creating the Graph Search.

They also said that when creating the facial recognition database that tagged people — sometimes erroneously — in photos. Simply stated: You should probably go check out the details of how this Graph Search works.

Facebook’s Graph Search is much, much more specific than your standard Google search. For example, you can type phrases like, “restaurants friends have eaten” and come up with a list of where your pals have been chowing down. Kind of cool, unless of course you don’t want that kind of information out there, albeit trivial. However, the Graph Search has the capability to be much more specific — like how many of your friends are single. Or have kids.

Maybe less cool.

In order to check what information is available publicly, log into your Facebook account and check out the Privacy Shortcuts (the padlock) on the top of your page. This will show you how to view your page as someone, as well as what your public page looks like. If you don’t like what you see, you’ll need to take further steps

Other privacy features have to be controlled at a more individual level. Since there are so many, here is a link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) article about how to minimize what shows up in the Graph Search. Whether you want to share more or less, the EFF article gives you a good step-by-step view of the different places you need to check out.

   

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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