Facebook Graph Search Australian Hands-On: So Creepy I Might Just Quit

Facebook is soft-launching Graph Search slowly across its billion-strong base of users, but already it is popping up in Australia. I have spent my afternoon so far messing around with Graph Search, and it's simultaneously the most intuitive and most terrifying search platform I have ever used. The future is terrifying.

What Is It?

Graph Search is a way to access information and people and things that are already on Facebook. Specifically, it’s for finding things that have been shared on Open Graph, which is the feature of Facebook that shares apps you use, photos you comment on and music you listen to with the world at large.

The Good

Facebook's Graph Search does a couple of things incredibly well, making it a welcome addition to a platform that has been a pain to search on for such a long time now.

More often than not Graph Search will actually bring up results you're looking for, which already makes it better than existing Facebook search tools that bring you completely irrelevant data.

Secondly, the results are presented beautifully, especially when searching for things like photos of friends. You're given a wall of high-res content that's a joy to scroll through.

The Bad

The only usability gripe I have with Graph Search is that it's pulling business listings from Microsoft's Bing search engine. I have found it wanting on more than one occasion. As someone working in Circular Quay, Sydney and wanting a burger within walking distance for lunch, I was dismayed when I found that the closest burger joint Facebook and Bing had for me was in Newtown: 72 minutes away on foot. Here's hoping Bing and Facebook work on better listings soon.

A far more concerning facet of Facebook Graph Search, however, is its potential as a stalking tool.

Make no mistake: Facebook Graph Search is creepy. For years people have been worried about the information they have given Facebook, what's kept, what's deleted and what can be displayed to other users. The age of the overshare is coming to a close, but we're about to live with the ramifications for a very, very long time.

Like everything online, Graph Search has the potential to be horribly abused. Stop me when this gets creepy. These are actual searches we got results for:

Single men/women who like Gizmodo AustraliaMy single male/female friendsMen/Women in an open relationship that live nearbyPeople who like sex toys and live nearbyPeople who work at Vodafone Australia and like VodafailMen/women who are single friends of [Your Significant Other]People who work at Google and like Apple Inc.

And so on and so on.

Worse still, you can sort any of these search results down to the most minute of details and compare them to details on your page. So for example, I can search for single women near my house, and then filter them by age range as well as the school they went to, or the phone they use, or the country they were born in, or even their political and religious views.

With Graph Search, Facebook becomes the most prolific stalking platform on the internet, and it's completely voluntary. It's opening up the information that everyone has freely given over the years to strangers, and that's goddamn terrifying.

By far the worst thing I have seen so far on Facebook Graph Search so far is this, taken from Tom Scott's tumblr on the new search platform.

Image: Tom Scott

That's not just creepy, that has potentially dangerous implications for people who would probably prefer to remain anonymous.

Now I know what you're saying: yes, it is our fault. We have brought all of this on ourselves by telling Facebook all of these intimate things about our lives, but perhaps Graph Search is the kick in the pants we need to take down all the stupid shit we have on there in the first place.

Kyle Wagner also contributed to this article.



    Certainly creepy, and somewhat concerning. I'm in Oz and i have yet to see Graph Search first hand, so I'm wondering; do we know what kind of privacy settings FB has (or has not) put in place for this?

      No new settings.
      It only uses and shows data visible in your current settings.
      Which will always include your current profile pic, name and cover photo.

      Visit your own profile, click the cog and choose view as.
      The default is a public view, anything on there, will be used in graph search by people you don't know.

        Cheers, i thought (and hoped) it would run of current settings, but you never know with FB.

    Single men/women who like Gizmodo Australia - Slightly creepy, but couldn't you have manually done this?
    My single male/female friends - Don't really see this as overly creepy.
    Men/Women in an open relationship that live nearby - Creepy
    People who like sex toys and live nearby - Creepy, but who publicly likes 'sex toys' on their Facebook page?
    People who work at Vodafone Australia and like Vodafail - Funny, but not creepy. They could easily say that they engage with that community to monitor the situation
    Men/women who are single friends of [Your Significant Other] - Again, couldn't you have manually found this information?
    People who work at Google and like Apple Inc. - Funny, but not creepy.

    I haven't seen anything from Graph that scares me. Most of the bad examples I have seen have been "Why would you have that on your Facebook page anyway?"

    I can definitely see legitimate uses for it.

      People who work at Vodafone Australia and like Vodafail

      And also quite clearly a firable offense.

    At the least this should teach people to better lock down the privacy settings for their account.

      Did we have a story saying there was no way to opt out of the Graph Search?

        You can't opt out, but graph search is "privacy aware", meaning what you choose to share on Facebook with a wider audience is what they'll see.

        That is, if you don't make your phone number public, nobody will see it. If you make it visible to friends only, only they will be able to search for it. If you make it available to friends of friends, they can see your phone number. If you make your phone number public, well, good luck to you!

    The last paragraph says it all...
    If you don't want people to know where you live, what you like and your relationship status, then don't post it online. Or don't make it public.
    I've yet to play with it. How do your privacy settings affect the search?

      Graph Search fully respects your privacy settings.

        Hahahaha! I love how you think any part of Facebook respects your privacy. :)

          I said it respects your privacy settings. No need to twist my words, thank you very much.

            That's why I said "any part of Facebook".
            And their history of changing the way Facebook's privacy settings work with little or no notice makes it pretty clear that they don't really respect peoples privacy, settings or otherwise.

    I can whole heartedly agree with the author, Australian business data in Bing is atrocious. I have even written on their forums in hope they get their behinds into gear and fix it. That was about a year ago now.

    Pathetic Microsoft, lift your game!

    Has anyone considered how this affects children online? What a perfect perfect stalking tool for predators. WHere's the security? Does some kid need to be killed for the lucrative social media industry to accept some responsibility for safety? There is no way in the world parents can adequately manage this risk.

      Parents are going to have to step up, that simple.
      As a parent, i can admit that, yes it is hard to maintain discipline in regards to the internet, but i have gone to huge lengths to explain to my own and my sisters kids the importance of keeping everything personal and private online. So far, they understand.

      And as a side not, these parents that set up FB accounts for their young kids need to be slapped.

      Ummm... Kids under 13 are not supposed to be on FB. Perhaps parents should take some responsibility, not let their kids fib, help them with privacy settings... I'm just say'n

      see http://www.dbcde.gov.au/online_safety_and_security/cybersafety_plan

    I am definitely considering deleting my Facebook account and either starting afresh or not using it at all. My only concern with that is its very useful for Uni.

    What concerns me about this, is how easy it will be for people to get targeted for spam and scams.

    Say I'm a scammer. I can search for "Email addresses of people who like soccer and live in Melbourne". Assuming there are results, there's a good list for people to try and scam.

    "Hi, my name is Ronaldo and I live in Brazil. While touring Melbourne watching the soccer matches there, I found out I was diagnosed with cancer. I am exceedingly rich and want to give you all of my money, because I saw you at the game and you looked like a man who is passionate about soccer like I am"

    Remember people, Google+ is still here. Sign up and say goodbye to privacy leaks!

      Google are so good with privacy!

        I just searched for "Single women in Melbourne" and found nothing. That alone gives it a one-up on Facebook!

      I don't have Graph search, but I highly doubt you can search for email addresses. Best you'd get a list of people in Melbourne who like soccer and you'd have to message each one through Facebook. Somebody would probably report you fairly quickly and your account would be deleted.

      Yup hit nail on head! They will be able to personalize the spam and scams so perfectly that it will look like its come from a friend of a friend. There's more...I did a post on it see below...

    This is why I don't have any of this information on Facebook. I have a profile pic and that's it.

    Yup but don't forget the "girls around me" app....I wrote about privacy for Graph Search last week here http://thecybersafetylady.com.au/2013/01/facebooks-new-privacy-shortcut-settings/ did two new vids on both the simple and more complex Facebook privacy settings to at least minimalise some hurt. Also with Graph Search we really need to teach our kids NOT to check in, on Face book because that just completes the picture! Girls Around Me Was pulled for doing almost THE exact same thing as Graph Search but with google maps and checking but with Graph search it's just one step away

    Last edited 23/01/13 6:56 pm

    Yup hit nail on head! They will be able to personalize the spam and scams so perfectly that it will look like its come from a friend of a friend. There's more..

    "And as a side not, these parents that set up FB accounts for their young kids need to be slapped."

    Yeah, that's not your call, Bucko.

    Has anyone noticed that google has NO privacy setting at all... If you don't want something to appear on graph search, make it private. Of you don't want something to come up on google search... Stiff cheese. (Of corse if you don't want to find anything useful at all use Bing).

    Sounds like graph search could be an advance in privacy.

    Anyway, love it or hate it, my prediction is that it will be a juggernaut - HIGE and massively used. Search just got interesting, again.

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