Repercussions of Facebook Graph Search

February 6, 2013

As with the arrival of most new things, no one is quite sure what the results of Facebook’s venture into search will be. Forbes investigates the possibilities in, “Facebook Graph Search is a Disruptive Minefield of Unintended Consequences.” It is good to see we are not the only ones who think this development could shake up the search terrain.

Journalist Anthony Wing Kosner begins by noting that Graph Search is not something users have requested, but rather a marketing initiative. For the feature to work, users will have to help by continuing to populate Facebook with data in the form of likes, check-ins, photos, and profile info. Somehow, I don’t think that’s a big hurdle, even if some users do get spooked by the very real search-related privacy concerns. More tricky, perhaps, is convincing users they want to narrow their searches from the World Wide Web to their own Facebook network.

Kosner writes:

“I think Graph Search is indeed important, but the results of Facebook’s search for increased relevance may be both more and less than it intends. Its users may find the utility of searching their own social graph to be hit-or-miss, but they also may find themselves feeling much more exposed in the searches of others than they ever intended to be. Rather than phrase this negatively, however, I want to try to identify the potentially explosive issues, land mines if you will, that Facebook will encounter in its path to build out its third pillar and suggest what it needs to do to avoid or diffuse them.”

Not surprisingly, the main suggestion is to make it easier for users to protect their privacy. The current process can be cumbersome, and not even a Zuckerberg can be certain the results will be as expected. With Graph Search in particular, the inability of algorithms to understand irony or a love of randomness, both hallmarks of today’s youth culture, can result in acute misrepresentation of someone’s views. Sometimes this could simply be amusing, but other times, it could cause real damage. And you might never know.

If you are concerned about these issues (and if you or someone you love uses Facebook, you should be), check out this detailed article. I suppose we will just have to wait and see where the chips fall, while helping spread the word—be careful out there.

Cynthia Murrell, February 06, 2013

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