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article imageConcerns over Facebook search engine Graph Search

By Tim Sandle     Jan 20, 2013 in Technology
Facebook's new smart search engine, called Graph Search, which allows users to make searches of content shared by their friends, has raised concerns over user privacy.
The Digital Journal reported this week about Facebook's new search engine, called Graph Search. Whilst several features appear interesting, the reaction from some in the tech community has been to express concerns about user privacy.
Graph Search has been designed by Facebook as a new way of searching through information it holds about its members. According to the BBC, the 'graph search' tool is designed to link up the information in Facebook's database. This makes it possible for members to search for friends based on their interests or even for friends of friends. The feature allows users to search Facebook for things centered around four focus areas: People, Places, Photos and Interests.
One of the concerns is targeting adverts at users based on information collected by Facebook about their interests. According to the Guardian: "The cause for concern in this scenario is Facebook's track record of introducing advertising features that impact user privacy, raising the prospect that this could happen with Graph Search in the future."
Others, however, have been more positive. Derrick Connell, corporate vice-president of Search at Bing wrote on the official Bling blog that: "When you do a web search on Facebook, the new search results page features a two-column layout with Bing-powered web results appearing on the left-hand side, overlaid with social information from Facebook, including how many people like a given result. On the right hand side, you will see content from Facebook Pages and apps that are related to your search. We think this is a powerful combination."
Another issue is with 'discoverability'. Writing on this, Hot Hardware comments: ""One can have a good balance of privacy and openness if information is available, but not easily discoverable. You might not mind if people specifically interested in you look at your Likes, but you may not want to have a market researcher pull the list and add it to an ad targeting profile. You might be okay if a new person you met at a conference looks you up on Facebook, but you may not want a creepy guy searching through Facebook's loose networks to find someone to stalk. All of a sudden, what people once thought was shared only to their Facebook audience—whether friends, friends of friends, or member of the public with a specific reason to look you up—is now readily available via Graph Search. This feature has rolled everyone, by default, into a dating service ("Single females in San Francisco who like Radiohead") and a marketing database ("People under 25 who like Coca-Cola")."
A third concern is that Facebook users cannot opt not to be part of Graph Search, as the site Quartz points out: "Facebook removed the capability to opt out of searches last month, before it announced the new feature."
However Graph Search is used and perceived, this type of search engine may well be the future pattern, as PC World notes "the hyper-personalization search wars have just gotten started."
More about Facebook, graph search, Privacy
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