Traipsing through photos from before 1990 or checking out which bars your high school sweetheart now frequents may be a fun way to spend an afternoon. But like anything else that comes from Facebook, the social network giant's Graph Search tool has come with some serious privacy concerns.
So far, Facebook's 1 billion users lack the ability to opt themselves out of the database, which for now is only at the beta-testing stage, available to users on a waiting list. In response to user concerns, Facebook has created and posted a video, "How Privacy Works With Graph Search."
In it, a search team employee named Julia noted that different people see different results based on privacy settings and demonstrated how she posted that she speaks Spanish on her profile but kept that information for "Friends only."
She also demonstrates how users can untag themselves from photos or ask the person who posted them to take them down.
The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation took up the issue on Friday, posting on its Web site that Graph Search "relies on your information being made widely or publicly available, yet there are some Likes, photos or other pieces of information that you might not want out there." It notes that Facebook has removed the ability to completely remove yourself from search results.
The organization recommends that concerned users use the "Who can see my stuff?" feature and click "View as" to see how their profile and timeline appears to the public and to the various people in their groups of friends. By selecting "Update info," users can modify results they do not like.
Users can also click on the Liked button to reassess some of the pages they have joined, in case they have decided to forgo Star Trek fan clubs and start dating. EFF also recommends checking privacy settings often, especially after the new feature goes live to the general Facebook membership. (Of course, a foolproof measure against embarrassment is to never post anything you'll regret later.)
Because of Facebook's history of run-ins with the Federal Trade Commission and tendency to make subtle changes or opt-ins, nearly everything it does will ignite suspicion.
But Lee Rainey, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, told us it's just too soon to tell whether this is a bigger concern than previous innovations from Mark Zuckerberg and company.
"There have been writers who have speculated about that, but so few people have access to the tool now that I haven't heard from customers yet and we haven't polled on this," Rainey said.
Jules Polonetsky, founder of the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank funded by technology companies, already has access to Graph Search.
"In my testing I can see that it is clearly useful for getting tips on places to go and advice on various things," Polonetsky told us.
"But certainly, information that was previously obscure will be much more accessible than ever, so it's important that users take the time to review their privacy settings, which [Facebook] has made a lot easier to adjust. Things that were buried are now easier to find."
Posted: 2013-01-25 @ 8:17am PT
I think that the Graph Search is not a good idea because it is letting too much personal information out.
Posted: 2013-01-18 @ 8:49pm PT
@Thumbs Down: I'm with you. I don't like what I'm hearing about Graph Search so far. Too much information too easily accessible. Not good. The more functionality Facebook adds, the more I'm afraid to post anything. Sooner or later, it'll come back to bite.
Posted: 2013-01-18 @ 8:45pm PT
I think the new Graph Search feature is a MAJOR can of worms and very detrimental to personal privacy.