Will Facebook Graph Search Scare Away Those Naïve To Privacy Controls?

Facebook Graph Search is finally rolling out to the masses. When he first announced the new feature in January 2013, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said “Graph Search is a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook… Eventually… we want to index all the posts and all of the content on Facebook.”

However, by trying to make Facebook too rich a pasture for people to find information about and from each other, will the well dry up as people fear for their privacy and start to lock down their profiles?

The lifeblood of Facebook is sharing. If people stopped sharing content, then you can see a clear path to fewer active users, fewer people clicking on paid ads, less being spent on paid ads, and therefore a decline in Facebook’s revenues.

A common consequence of any update to Facebook is an uproar from a privacy perspective, and people are already getting a little twitchy about the prospect of their online profiles becoming searchable. In fact, when the feature was first announced at the start of the year, The Guardian produced a few examples of why would wouldn’t want Graph Search:

“Graph Search has served up lists of family members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong, people who like the extreme rightwing group the English Defence League but also enjoy a curry, and Islamic men who are interested in other men and live in Tehran, where homosexuality is persecuted.”

Essentially the whole issue will boil down to what you decide to share on Facebook and how you go about configuring your privacy settings. Will people – en masse – stop posting things on Facebook because of Graph Search? Probably not. But there have been plenty of instances in the past where users have been very vocal in their concerns over how much of their information is set to ‘Public’ by default. Each of these minor privacy issues eventually seem to blow over, however there is a well-known phrase about “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Will Graph Search be the last straw for a small number of users? There’s every chance.

But before we started saying that Facebook has shot itself in the foot with Graph Search, it must be pointed out that the social network has once again gone to lengths to meet users half way. Regular blog posts about Facebook Privacy Settings ensure that users are fully versed in how to manage their content privately within the controls available to them – if they ever took the time to read them.

Maybe that’s the key point here? There is an increasingly strong argument to say that we should all spend some time in self-education and actually take control of our own content.


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