Facebook Graph Search: New, Cool Feature or Cause For Concern?

Facebook announced that it will be rolling out their latest innovation, Graph Search, which allows users to better search the social network and web overall. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg originally announced the feature back in January, and now after 6 months of beta testing it is apparently ready for the masses. While Graph Search will surely prove to be a cool new feature, like with all major Facebook updates it will probably be met with some opposition.  As reported by techcrunch.com:

“Graph Search’s beta version launched in January. At that time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the product as completely different from Web search: “Web search is designed to take any open-ended query and give you links that might have answers. Graph Search is designed to take a precise query and give you an answer, rather than links that might provide an answer,” he said.

Examples of searches Facebook gave during its launch event included ‘friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter’ and ‘photos of my friends taken at National Park,’ but Graph Search’s beta users have discovered much more humorous (and arguably useful) ways to take advantage of the tool. Tumblr Actual Facebook Graph Searches gives many examples of these queries, including ‘married people who like prostitutes’ and ’employers of people who like racism.’

Which is what raises the main concern for the tool: privacy. Although this has been a never-ending topic for Facebook and social media platforms, this step may prove to be even more troublesome than the ones that preceded it. According to cnet.com:

“There’s something unsettling about Facebook making an unexpected connection between you and something you’ve shown interest in, and then highlighting that behavior to an undefined group of people. ‘Friends of my friends who like weed,'” is one telling query where you can find potheads in your extended network who probably don’t realize their extracurricular preferences are on display to strangers.

Sure, Graph Search obeys the privacy settings of your posts and Facebook encourages you to view and adjust what groups of people can see your stuff, but those measures won’t prevent embarrassing revelations from surfacing.

Graph Search could act like a wake-up call that encourages people to pay more attention to their privacy settings, cut back on their likes or updates, or leave Facebook altogether. History tells us that a mass exodus won’t happen, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that member attention, especially the attention of tweens and teens, is shifting to other, more private applications, in part because of a fear of being held accountable for incriminating posts or photos.”

Now of course, this is how all new innovations on social media are accepted. First there’s is a major uproar and protest, and even threats to never return to the platform. But then the dust settles and the innovation becomes so engrained into the user experience that people cannot imagine the platform without it. While older generations will harbor more mistrust for a feature like Graph Search, the truth is, the younger generation has a different set of expectations and will probably embrace it. And that’s neither good nor bad, just different. Have you used Facebook Graph Search? Tell us what you think.

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