FACEBOOK GRAPH SEARCH VS. YOU

 
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Should You Be Concerned?

Facebook has been rolling out its new Graph Search over the past couple of weeks.  No matter how you feel about Facebook as a social networking tool, you should appreciate how closely knit it is with the World Wide Web.  Whenever Facebook introduces something new it will almost certainly impact the safety, privacy and/or welfare of its users.

The new search tool, whose actual global rollout date has not yet been announced, is something many people should be worried about as far as their privacy is concerned.  To fully understand how Facebook Graph Search affects user privacy and ensure that no personal information is compromised, it is essential that we take a closer look.

Graph Search: A Powerful Search Engine

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Facebook’s Graph Search is a more powerful search engine than the current search tool.  Graph Search traverses Facebook data and allows users to make long natural-language queries in the Facebook search box.  Users can search information on friends, pictures, posts and almost anything indexed by Graph Search.

A closer look at Facebook’s Graph Search API reveals that it is a limited interface of Facebook’s larger social graph.  With its REST-based search, the graph search may make Facebook better as a networking tool.

However, uninformed users could be making all of their information available for the global audience – including non-Facebook users.  For instance, the Graph Search can index which of your friends checked into a particular restaurant or Liked a particular product.  This information, unless protected in privacy settings, is available for all to see.

Facebook Graph Search vs. Your Privacy

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When Facebook rolls out the Graph Search worldwide photos, status updates, pages you like or temporarily liked, comments, pictures uploaded and tagged, groups you joined, articles read and liked outside Facebook, & shared content and other activities on Facebook will be searchable by whomever you allow.

If your privacy settings are set such that anyone can access this information, then anyone on Facebook can view this information.  This is slightly disconcerting considering that out of Facebook’s 1 billion active users, over 13 million have never made any changes to their default privacy settings!

The Debate

So the debate rages on.  Should the average user be concerned about Facebook Graph Search?

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The development of Facebook Graph Search coincides with a larger movement on the Internet of increased data sharing and larger access to private user data.  It’s easy to see why many people are concerned with the amount of their information that is being collected and curated for commercial purposes.  It brings to mind haunting images of futuristic dystopias like George Orwell’s “1984.”

However, when asked, most people respond that they like to be shown advertisements for products they want.  And it is no secret that the Internet is not the safest place to store personal information.

But, the majority of information that’s being shared on the Internet is used to make the process of purchasing goods/services better for the consumer and easier for businesses.  Data Curation is not nearly as nefarious as it seems.

We feel that the majority of the concern comes from confusion that is inherent in the process of web surfing.  Because you’re online in the comfort of your own home, many people feel they are due the same privacy.  This is a major misconception!

Whenever you’re surfing the Internet, consider it like leaving the house.  You’re now out in public domain, and your rights to privacy reflect this.  If you walked around with a shirt that had all of your information printed on it, and someone collected this information, you’d have no justification for being upset.  This is how one must address the Internet.

Though we use it everyday and feel a natural connection, it is important to remember that the Internet is still very new.  It will take some time before the laws governing its use and the way people choose to use it reflect its true nature.  In the meantime, one must remain vigilant in order to stay protected from the ever changing online landscape.

 
Jake Burns