How Facebook’s New Search Affects You

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Yesterday, Facebook announced the release of Graph Search, which will allow users to look through all their friends' public content. Users will be able to take full advantage of what Facebook had long been calling "the Graph", the network of interests and connections that people have in the real world, and then put on their profiles. According to the press release, the search will lets users go through Facebook's four major areas: people, photos, places and interests.

Instead of going to a search engine and relying on keywords that might not get you what you want, Facebook lets users combine phrases to find what they want—and who else wants it, too. The press release gives the example of searching for music:

Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: "my friends in New York who like Jay-Z") to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that's been shared on Facebook

It seems Facebook is hoping to replace, or at least supplement, reviews sites like Yelp when it comes to helping people make decisions. Rather than strangers with a wide variety of opinions sounding off, Facebook lets you search through people you (presumably) trust to get their recommendations and photos on where to eat or shop.

Those who are concerned about privacy can rest assured that Facebook won't change any of your existing privacy settings. It will only pull information that's already public into the search results. Meaning, if you're concerned that your photos, statuses and information will be abused, just go ahead and make your profile private. If you don't want to opt out of Graph Search altogether, you can use the activity log feature to control what gets seen and what doesn't.

Be sure to talk to your children about the new search tool as well. This may be a good time to go over their privacy settings with them or have them remove anything they think can be perceived negatively, even if someone just searches "friends who like sushi in my city". At this point, the search tool is in beta; users must sign up for the service first at www.facebook.com/graphsearch.

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