Facebook’s ‘Revealing’ New People Search

WARNING: Watch what you do, ‘The Graph’ is watching you.

Although Facebook’s new Graph Search is still a beta release, it is already revealing more personal information than many would ‘Like’. This new people-powered search uses the treasure trove of personal details that users share on Facebook and makes it all searchable by friends, family, bosses and, quite possibly, total strangers.

Graph Search literally has the potential to expose millions of users to the prying eyes of anyone who wants to take a peek into the personal details of others, turning anyone with a Facebook account into a data miner of personal information.

The new search engine launched by Facebook allows users to search for people, pictures, places, things and connections based on what other people have ‘Liked’ on the world’s largest social network. Individuals whose Facebook profile is set to the default privacy setting can be searched for and found in this way by anyone with a Facebook account.

Privacy activists warn that Graph Search lets total strangers find personal details about you that you may have wanted to remain private or at least obscure. Others warn that results on Graph Search are horribly flawed and unreliable and could lead to people being associated with things, ideas and groups that they are not actually associated with.

A new Tumblr blog called ActualFacebookGraphSearches highlights some of the potentially embarrasing and flawed results that can be found using Facebook’s new people search.

There is also the concern that the new Graph Search could be used by tyrannical governments to search for and locate dissidents and citizens who criticize political leaders and their policies.

So on the one hand it is troubling that the current Graph Search shows unreliable results that could cause problems for innocent people and on the other hand it is concerning that as the search results get better it could be used for nefarious purposes by cyber stalkers and dictators to target people.

Graph search results can be refined based on the following criteria:

  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Employer
  • Current City
  • Hometown
  • School
  • Friendship
  • Likes

In addition, since private investigators, skip tracers, police officers and employers increasingly rely on Facebook to do background searches on people, this could be one more tool in their social media research.

Could the information found on Graph Search be used to solve crimes, aid in court cases, find lost friends and family or hurt employment prospects?

Is it possible that the Graph Search could make Facebook the most powerful online dating site in the history of the internet?

Will this new social search have a chilling effect on how people use Facebook’s platform and how they decide to update their profiles or will it encourage people, like Ryan Tate @ Wired Magazine, want to share more information, enhancing the Graph’s usefulness as a recommendation and discovery search tool?

Will Graph Search become a tool for blackmailers or other internet opportunists, who could use it to find potentially embarrassing information about people to make money?

We will have to wait and see what Facebook’s new search results reveal and how it is used by both individuals and businesses. A few things we know for sure: Facebook’s social graph is big, growing and constantly changing and it currently contains over 1 billion people, 240 billion pictures and over 1 trillion connections.

For a quick introduction to some of the types of searches that can be done on Graph Search, watch the YouTube video below or visit the official page at https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch.