Facebook Updates Graph Search: Check Your Privacy Settings

The new-and-improved Graph Search will debut to a limited pool of users before a broader expansion at some later date.

Facebook has updated Graph Search with new features, including the ability to search through friends’ posts, status updates, captions, check-ins and comments.

New, viable search terms could include “My posts from October 2012” and “Posts by my friends written in the last month,” among many others. The enhanced Graph Search will debut to a small group of Facebook users before expanding at some unannounced point to the social network’s broader population.

Facebook first rolled out Graph Search to its U.S. English-speaking audience in July, claiming that the platform’s months in beta had resulted in a bevvy of improved features (speedier results, a simpler-to-use search box, and so on).

From its inception, Graph Search was always considered an extraordinarily ambitious project, one that required Facebook to undertake a massive hardware-infrastructure upgrade (in order to handle the inevitable traffic spike from users querying the system in complex ways) and build an innovative software platform capable of parsing and analyzing the complexities of human language.

Graph Search’s ability to drill so deeply into user data has raised some very big questions about privacy. “When a billion people are listing everything they like (or ‘Like’) on Facebook, from travel and games to photos and people, all that information is stored in one gigantic graph,” Slashdot writer Jeff Cogswell wrote in February. “That’s somewhat more ominous than Google’s tracking.”

But Facebook has insisted all along that users will have a high degree of control over how Graph Search surfaces their data. “Graph Search makes finding things easier, but you can only see what you could already view elsewhere on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email to Slashdot soon after Cogswell’s article hit the Web. “You control who you share your interests and likes with on Facebook. Each category of interests and likes has its own privacy setting.”

In a Sept. 30 blog posting, Facebook reiterated the supposed strength of Graph Search’s privacy controls: “As with other things in Graph Search, you can only see content that has been shared with you, including posts shared publicly by people you are not friends with.”

That’s all well and good, but it behooves Facebook users to take the opportunity to check their Privacy Shortcuts (the little lock icon on the right side of the top bar) and Activity Log to make sure their settings are appropriately locked down. And remember: no matter how tightly you secure your information against other users, Facebook still has access to it, and could be using it (if only in aggregated form) to sell ads.

 

Image: Facebook

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