Facebook attempts to make Graph Search less creepy

Facebook attempts to make Graph Search less creepy

San Francisco : CA : USA | Feb 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM PST
Views: Pending

Facebook has really changed the nature of stalking. Fifteen years ago, you had to park outside your ex’s house, spending money on gasoline and binoculars. Now you can creep discretely and legally from the privacy of your own home.

In this spirit, every single change or update to the site is measured by utility versus creepiness.

The latest, perhaps greatest, addition to Facebook is Graph Search, a tool which harnesses the deep mines of data collected by the social network, according to Mark Zuckerberg.

Graph Search, which was unrolled for English-speaking users of the site earlier this year, is sort of a search engine with a social twist. Basically, if it catches on, it will make Facebook a powerful combination of Google, Pinterest and Match.com.

“With Graph Search,” a recent post from the company reads, “you can look up anything shared with you on Facebook, and others can find stuff you've shared with them, including content set to Public. For instance, you can search, ‘My friends who like Justin Bieber’ and that search will only show your friends that like Justin Bieber and have shared their likes with you.”

Sounds great, right? Well, it might also sound like a perfect new tool for the seedier elements of the social network. It doesn’t help that they used teen idol Justin Bieber for the example.

Facebook announced last Thursday that they were making some changes to the function to make it a little less creepy in regards to users under 18.

“As with all of our products, we designed Graph Search to take into account the unique needs of teens on Facebook. On Facebook, many things teens are likely to do—such as adding information to their timelines or sharing status updates—can only be shared with a maximum of Friends of Friends,” the company wrote.

“In addition,” the post says, “for certain searches that could help to identify a young person by age or by their location, results will only show to that person's Friends, or Friends of Friends who are also between the ages of 13-17.”

To be clear, there have been no reported cases of Graph Search being used for nefarious purposes. Eyebrows were raised, however, by the fact that you can type in a search like “single women under 18 who live by me.”

Yikes. Thankfully (and hopefully), Facebook nipped this in the bud.

This article is part of Allvoices’ series on ad:tech, the largest, longest-running digital marketing and technology event. Check out allvoices.com/adtech for more of Allvoices’ ad:tech coverage. This series is supported by ad:tech.

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Barry Eitel is based in Oakland, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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