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Can Facebook Graph Search Be A Bigger Than Ever Privacy Concern?

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So you have a bunch of friends on Facebook and they know everything about you right? Most likely not. Sure you have some data out there being shared with them, but how many times is someone going to put two and two together to determine if you live in Palo Alto California AND you love puppies? Maybe some, but with Graph search, Facebook’s new announced product, they are going to find out much quicker.

Where You See Smoke There Is Fire

This seems innocent at first but what if you accidentally change something from private to public and a minute later change it back. Too late, with the number of queries due to be happening at any given moment everyone who remotely knows you can suddenly see that leaked info in queries they did at the time. Heck, you will surely have bots that are going to work their way into networks and do queries that will pull that data onto the web. Next thing you know, you are on the front cover of some website selling pills. This is just another step of harvesting personal data to then build profiles of you. This isn’t an alarmist point of view, this is just reality. Graph search is Facebook’s way of taking data and building information. Making associations that you may not want shared with others… even your closest friends.

Painting A More Detailed Picture

Let’s say for a moment I would like to know more about my friend John. Using the new Graph Search I could build in ways to make connections about him. Where he lives to the places he likes to eat, to friends he may know to what he watches at the movies. Sure these pieces of info could be gathered by browsing through his profile of shared items, but now with graph search I can pull this info together much more quickly to build a more complete profile of this person. Using this information I could then, over time, build a better profile of who John is and target him directly with more content… or better yet, sell that info to someone else. I think we will see this type of data collection and data mining much more heavy now on Facebook than in the past.

Are You Going To Be Able To Get Out In Time?

You don’t want everyone to know everything about you. You made a simple mistake and put out a quick piece of information about where you live. Suddenly it is being associated with other facets of your life and a profile is being built about you. Another problem is that if you have been on Facebook, it is already going to be part of this graph search and your data is being thrown against other data to create your digital fingerprint. I think it is too late for most Facebookers to get out of this run away machine that will not only see your data but now is building knowledge about you as a person to feed to whoever.

I for one am lucky that I never put my info out there. Now let’s just hope Facebook doesn’t go too far down this road and link details between two friends that don’t know each other but where I am somehow associated with. Then using that info to find out more about me, even though I am not on Facebook. Then that would be like a virus which has leaped from one species to another. Then we will all be cataloged and our lives will be an open book.

What are your thoughts on their new announcement? Do you see danger or opportunity?

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3 Comments On This Entry

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IJET Icon

15 January 2013 - 02:10 PM
I'll start by saying nice post, Martyr. Here are my thoughts:

I am definitely not a big social media guy, but I keep up on what is going on with the big networks. At this point in time, it really doesn't bother me at all that Facebook is doing this. Why? Because it is fully expected that this is the direction things are heading. Pretty much every platform is trying to become more intuitive to the user and put information and things in front of people that they think they will like based off of whatever information they gathered on the user.

I have noticed Twitter has changed some things as well as Google. For a quick example on Twitter, you now have to sign-in to view a persons followers/following on their page. You could say it's about privacy, but it makes me think that they are collecting some sort of data and it is just a matter of time before Twitter starts suggesting friends "you might know" by this data like Facebook does. It currently suggests people you should follow such as celebs at the moment. As for Google, they just sent me an e-mail today coincidentally about a Google+ account that I don't use. It listed quite a few people they thought I "might know", and surprisingly enough I did. The thing is I never contacted these suggested people directly from my e-mail, so I am not quite sure how they figured that out.


Tldr; It's the internet and there is no privacy. Everyone is collecting data on you and doing something with it, not just Facebook. If you think a company is taking things too far, just quit using their service.
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Martyr2 Icon

15 January 2013 - 02:40 PM
Thanks for the feedback IJET. Oh I know that a lot of sites out there collect info about its users and visitors. I think we all know this. The real danger I see here is that when a service starts making associations between facts to come up with information. But not only that, who has access to that information. Facebook here is putting together facts in new ways and creating new information with those facts and then allowing others to see that data.

We all knew that Facebook was doing this sort of thing for its own purposes, they have just now opened up the technology to just about everyone.

But you are right, a lot of sites are doing this sort of thing and using it for advertising type networks and to make suggestions. Facebook, I believe, is taking it one step further and giving everyone that power to make associations. I just think many of us will not use the power wisely. Thanks for replying! :)
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AnalyticLunatic Icon

16 January 2013 - 07:52 AM
I find this new roll-out interesting, but believe you are correct in the possibility of mal-use becoming rampant. I have not done much research on the new Graph Search at this point, but from what I've read I am currently assuming it is publicly used only to query data about YOUR friends.

That being the case, I would see the possibility of the next step being the ability to submit queries on "private" data to actively search for people with common interests. What is currently done from the Social Media side of things by features like "People You May Know", but in this case directly in the hands of the users. Currently you can use names, locations, groups, email, etc. to query Facebook and see users returned, but I picture the next step being much more open-ended.

Say Joe Schmoe just moved to town. He likes good Scotch, works as a Developer, and loves to Bowl. He queries Lagavulain, Bowling, Software Development, and there you go, I suddenly appear on his screen to message as he wishes. Part of the problem here is I have never liked anything remotely related to Bowling. Facebook in it's buggy or "planted" nature that has been in the press the last several months for "false" likes though, included me in the Query.

I read an article not long ago about a guy who became concerned with Facebook when he logged on and saw that his friend (John?) has liked Mothers car care products. There were 2 issues here:

1. John hated Mothers products.
2. John had been deceased for 7 months.

*The basic story is right, but if I can find it, will link to the original article for specific details.

DISCLAIMER: Apologies for what I am sure is a random and zig-zag post, but it is morning, and I do my best work around 2-3pm.
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