Three reasons Facebook’s Graph Search might not be the Next Great Thing

The announcement of Facebook’s new Graph Search was met with some very mixed reactions. Some people think the ability to search through your friends’ info should have existed ages ago. Some think that social searching will be a huge threat to websites like Yelp and Foursquare, which rely on the same sort of data and input to get similar results.

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But there are many dissenting voices out there who argue that Graph Search will face some particular pitfalls, preventing it from taking a chunk of search traffic away from Google or Yelp like some are predicting:

Facebook's big revealFacebook unveils a new feature to help its users search for people and places within their social networks. Bobbi Rebell reports.

Everybody Lies

The potential power of Graph Search is great: you can search for people of a particular demographic and find out what they’re interested in, places they go, or people they hang out with, like “bars visited by Maple Leafs fans” or “people who are friends of Tori who attended the University of Toronto.” But that’s putting a huge onus on Facebook users to tell the truth in their bios, and only like things that they really like.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not harbouring some great love for Lysol or Lean Cuisine; I just ‘Liked’ those pages to score the occasional free coupon. Macleans’ Jesse Brown wrote that he and his friends often ‘Like’ things to help promote a friend’s business, or to make a “cheesy joke.” He also points out that all of his Facebook ‘friends’ aren’t exactly the most trustworthy demographic, being made up of a mix of real people, fake people, and pet profiles. Although now I think about it, my friend’s dog just recommended the best little coffee shop…

No Peeking!

Even if you are 100% truthful in your profile, there are other ways your Facebook profile could throw a wrench in search. With so many stories of people who were fired for things they said and did on Facebook, people are increasingly restrained in what they’re posting online, either by keeping privacy settings extremely high or not posting personal information to Facebook at all. Maybe you left out your school, your hometown, your relationship status, or place of business: all of this would be enough to get you omitted from a friend or stranger’s search results.

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Yes, stranger. Facebook’s Graph Search will include results from profiles of anyone with a public Facebook profile – which, these days, is just about no one. Articles like this one from CNET are likely to be popping up over the next little while, showing you how to make sure your privacy settings are set to the level you want. And I have a feeling that after many people have gone through and made most of their profile information ‘Friends Only,’ there’s not going to be a robust amount of information for Graph Search to pull from.

Here, Phishy Phishy

Let’s say you’re Facebook’s ideal user: you only ‘Like’ things you genuinely like, you’ve provided all the information you can about your relationship, geographical location and places of work and schooling. While your profile will be perfect for Facebook’s Graph Search to use, there’s another problem: it opens you up to being the target of phishing attacks.

“The new Facebook Graph Search is a phishers’ dream come true,” Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle told PC World. “It takes the micro-targeting capabilities that have been available to online advertisers for years and puts them into the hands of cyber criminals.”

Hackers have been using Google as a method of hacking for years, PC World reports, using it to mine all kinds of personal information and sensitive data about a person. Now, hackers will be able to access even more of this information, or at least a more personalized version of it, using Graph Search.

In yesterday’s announcement, Facebook did stress that only information you choose to share will be made publicly searchable, and the company has gone to some lengths to allow you to pick and choose exactly what information will be out there. Now would probably be a good time to make sure you’re only as searchable as you want to be.

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