Thursday 21 August 2014
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Facebook's Graph Search & Your Privacy: 7 Things You Need to Know

On Tuesday, Facebook made a big announcement, unveiling it’s new social graph search technology that will be rolling out over the next few months. In case you missed it, graph search is essentially a new way to search your friend’s social data for complicated search queries. If you’re looking for a new restaurant in your area, you can simply type “restaurants around me that my friends like.” You’ll then get a list of restaurant fan pages at which your friends have checked in or ones that they’ve liked.

Here’s Facebook’s official video on graph search:

My first reaction was conflicted, to put it lightly. On the one hand, graph search is an incredibly powerful tool that is undoubtedly the future of how we’ll search for content on the internet. On the other hand, as a huge advocate for online privacy, there are inherent parts of graph search that make me uneasy. Thankfully, there are ways to reap the positive benefits of graph search without exposing all your deepest darkest secrets to the 1 billion other users on the social network.

Here are the 7 things you need to know about graph search in order to protect your online privacy:

1. Your Default Privacy Settings Are the Same With Graph Search

A lot of people are in uproar that graph search will expose previously private information from their profiles. While graph search will make public information more visible, the fact is anything you have set to private will remain private. Facebook even put together a dedicated page explaining how your base privacy settings work with graph search. When in doubt, set your default privacy to ‘friends only’ so your data only shows up for direct contacts. Facebook has also added a “privacy shortcuts” tab where you can quickly access all your privacy settings.


2. Graph Search & Tagged Photos

Perhaps the biggest privacy issue with graph search is that no matter how you’ve set your own privacy settings, if a friend tags you in a public post or photo then that information will show up in search results. One of the most interesting features of graph search will be photo queries, such as “pictures of me with friends in 2008.” To prevent yourself from popping up in embarrassing old party or vacation photos we highly recommend you take 30 minutes and go through every photo of you and untag yourself from the ones you’d rather remain private. Trust me when I say: a little prevention now can save you a lot of headache down the road. Seeing as the average adult spends 8 hours a month on Facebook, you can afford 1/16th of that time go through your pictures and protect yourself.

3. Use Timeline Review to Approve Tags

In the vein of point #2, you can change your settings to require all tagged posts get approved before being added to your timeline. To set this up go to ‘timeline review’ in your privacy dashboard and enable timeline review. Timeline review simply allows you to approve/deny any post you’re tagged in before it is publicly visible on your profile. If you deny a tagged post the post still goes up, but it won’t be linked to your timeline or show up in graph search.

4. Liked Pages & Graph Search

Similar to tagged photos, we recommend you audit your liked pages as these will show up in graph search. Like queries will be a huge part of graph search’s functionality. For example, you might search “friends around me who like Quentin Tarantino” to organize a movie night. Unfortunately, most of us have probably liked more random pages than we care to remember. Don’t be like these people – now is the time to dig through and make sure you haven’t liked any potentially embarrassing pages like “kinky sex,” “weed,” or “Nickleback.”

Keeping it classy.

Keeping it classy.

5. Be Aware of Geolocation & Check-ins

Like everything else, if your check-ins are publicly visible or you allow Facebook to track your location, then that info will be available via graph search. Geolocation is a particularly critical privacy issue because geolocation is the link between your digital life and your real life. While liking an embarrassing page can hurt your online reputation, accidentally broadcasting your location publicly makes it incredibly easy for stalkers to follow you, or worse, for burglars to rob you. So when you go through your privacy settings we highly recommend you turn off geolocation and make all check-ins private.

6. Make Lists With Unique Privacy Levels

This is perhaps the most time consuming tip on this list (depending on how many friends you have), and for many people this may be unnecessary. However if you have several different groups of contacts on Facebook – close friends, family, coworkers, then you can sort them into lists and manually change the privacy settings for each list to control what they will be able to see via graph search. You can even make custom privacy settings for specific contacts if you need that level of detail.

7. When in Doubt, Delete.

Facebook says it in their mission statement: “[Our] mission is to make the world more open and connected.” That’s great, and graph search is a huge step in that direction. But for many people, graph search may be a bit too open and accessible for their liking. However despite the increasing privacy concerns, many people keep their Facebook accounts because there’s no better way to stay in touch with friends and contacts. To those concerned with their privacy in light of graph search, we recommend using a private social network like Sgrouples. At Sgrouples you will always own your content, and you have total access to customize your privacy permissions to control exactly who can see your content at all times. And if you have any doubt about whether or not an individual piece of content is safe to keep online, your best bet is to play it safe and deleting anything questionable.

The Takeaway for Facebook’s Graph Search & Privacy

Graph search doesn’t change anything about what information is private and what information is public. The real threat to privacy is the ease of access graph search provides to all this semi-hidden and old information currently on people’s profiles. If you’re concerned about your privacy then you need to be aware about everything you’ve ever uploaded to Facebook, even if that means taking an hour or two to dig through all your old pictures, likes, and posts. Above all, take 10 seconds to think before posting an angry status update or uploading pictures from your last night at the club. And if you want privacy but don’t feel like going through all that headache then sign up for a free account and Sgrouples – the World’s Private Social Network.

So what do you think about graph search: awesome new innovation, or threat to individual privacy? Let us know in the comments section!

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