Facebook Graph Search: Here's how to avoid being stalked
Facebook's new search feature means it's time to tweak your privacy settings again
Update: Facebook's Graph Search feature went live for everyone on July 8. If you haven’t heard of Graph Search until now, it’s basically a refined version of what was there before. It allows you to find things via Facebook that would have once required some serious detective work. When it initially rolled out in beta, Facebook noted that it would be an ever useful tool for journalists. That said, you may want to rethink your privacy settings now that it’s live for absolutely anyone with a Facebook account. It’s your privacy settings that will determine what your friends will be able to dig up on you when they search.
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So, all that hype about Facebook building something new...yeah. It's totally not a smartphone. Turns out it's just another way to search. But guys, it's not just your regular ol' fashioned search. No, no. Facebook's Graph Search is innovative, and personal. Big time emphasis on personal -- intimate, even.
Graph Search is Facebook's way of helping you meet new people with similar interests (hmmm, kind of like a dating site?) But it's also a more simplified, faster way to stalk the friends you already have. Graph Search is different in that it allows you to get weirdly specific.
For example, you can find out which of your pals lives in Chicago, works at X company, enjoys trail running, loves cilantro and doesn't totally hate jazz music. You can actually search for that now, and if that person exists in your network, you'll find them. If you're not at all creeped out by Facebook's newest feature, this post probably isn't for you. If, like me, you think that's just a bit much, let's carry on.
Putting aside the countless crazy ways in which folks will undoubtedly use Graph Search for a moment (you can read more about how it works and what it is here), let's talk about how we can potentially avoid having our personal photos, updates and interests discovered in the new search feature.
Facebook notes on its announcement page that Graph Search displays unique results for everyone. This should mean that any content you have made private will not be shared outside of the folks you've allowed to view it. Likewise, you can only currently search for content that's been shared with you. It's important to note that Graph Search is in beta right now, and is only available as a limited preview for English audiences, meaning that when this new feature is finally ready for the masses, much of these stipulations could change.
For the moment, it doesn't appear that Facebook has released an opt-out for its Graph Search. It's unlikely that this is even something being taken into serious consideration -- hell, it wasn't even until recently that the social network shed a little light on privacy by making its settings more obvious (they're now displayed right at the top of your page, complete with a brief tutorial on how to use 'em).
Facebook notes that "different people will see different things" when using Graph Search, meaning it's once again up to you to customize the crap out of everything. You can do this straight from your privacy settings, where you can double check to make sure that your Facebook content is only being shared with friends. It's a simple click to switch over from Public view.
You can also create specific lists of people who you want to share more personal photos and updates with. And, of course, you can always make it so that only you can see certain things. It's time consuming. It's irritating. And it's just another reason why none of us should ever post anything to Facebook that we prefer to keep private. Like any "free" service, it all comes at a cost.