Facebook’s Graph Search: How It Impacts Your Privacy

Graph Search Facebook everything-prThere’s a lot of buzz in the search world at the moment, following Facebook’s announcement that it may or may not be squaring up to Google with its new Graph Search feature, but this tussle (if it happens) is unlikely to concern consumers too much. What may bother them however, is how Facebook’s new search feature impacts on their privacy, and what, if anything, they can do about it.

Like It Or Not, Facebook’s Counting You In

One of the first issues that need addressing is whether or not it’s possible to ‘opt out’ of the new Graph Search feature. Surprisingly, Facebook has actually made it possible to hide your posts and comments from Graph Search, but the way they have set it up means that pretty much no one will bother to do so.

Remember the announcement Facebook made late last year, changing its terms to state that no one can opt out of being found via its search bar? Well, now you know why they did this. Each and every comment you make, every post you share, every item you like and all of the photos you’re tagged in will show up in Graph Search – unless you specifically state that you don’t want this to happen, every single time you ever post, like, share or upload anything.

See that small icon next to the ‘post’ button that you never, ever click? Well now you’re going to need to fiddle with this every single time if you wish to remain hidden – Facebook has made it so that’s the only way to opt out, knowing full well that people will never bother, or will simply forget half the time.

Privacy Settings Remain The Same

The following video explains how your privacy settings will essentially the same – and so, according to Facebook, anything that has been set to private already will continue to be private even with Graph Search, meaning that strangers cannot access anything about you that they couldn’t do before.

However, what the video doesn’t say is that Graph Search will likely mean that a great deal of your older content (you know, those photos from two years ago that no one looks at anymore) may suddenly become more accessible, and so it may be worth having a little look-see and making sure there are no cobwebs in your cupboard that you don’t want people to find.

Your Photos are More Visible

Here’s where it gets a bit more interesting. If you’re even a mildly voracious Facebook user, you’ve probably witnessed a friend of yours uploading an embarrassing image with you in it, tagging you and showing it to the world, at least once before.

In the old days, it was possible to remove this kind of intrusion immediately simply by untagging yourself and hiding the image from your wall, but with Graph Search those compromising images can still be found. The problem is that Facebook allows geo-tagging, and Graph Search will allow users to search for images by location.

So say someone uploads a photo you don’t want others to see, makes it publicly accessible, tags you and geo-tags it as well, you could be in trouble. Sure, you can still untag yourself, but the fact that the image is public means that anyone searching for that particular bar or pub you were in will easily be able to find it. Which means that a great deal more strangers will likely be able to see your photos. And it also means that suspicious ‘other halves’ will be able to carry out random ‘geo-searches’ of locations they know where you’ve been, in the hope of catching you doing something you probably shouldn’t have been doing…

Your Search History Will Be Sold, Sooner Or Later

Facebook says that it has ‘no plans to monetize’ Graph Search, but that doesn’t mean it won’t make them later on. In fact, assuming that Graph Search does indeed take off, you can bet your house on it. Advertising revenues would be astronomical and so Facebook will never be able to resist the temptation. This wouldn’t be a huge problem, except for the fact that advertisers are never happy with just bombarding you with random ads – instead they want your data (all of it) so they know exactly what kind of ads to target you with. And they’re quite prepared to pay Facebook handsomely for it…

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