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Facebook's Graph Search Is a Privacy Test For Internet Users 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-none-of-them-have-studied dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An article in the NY Times makes the case that Graph Search, Facebook's recently unveiled social search utility, will be a test for users of the social networking site which will have consequences for the internet at large. The test will show whether people are willing to take the next step in sharing parts of their lives, and whether social search is the future for online interaction. '...the company engineers who created the tool — former Google employees — say that the project will not reach its full potential if Facebook data is "sparse," as they call it. But the company is confident people will share more data, be it the movies they watch, the dentists they trust or the meals that make their mouths water.' CompSci professor Oren Etzioni says it's a watershed moment for the social internet because of the scale at which Facebook operates. A decade ago, people began making the choice to share their lives online; buying into social search would be the biggest step since then. A related post by the Electronic Frontier Foundation can be summed up with this single line: 'If you walk down a crowded public street, you are probably seen by dozens of people—but it would still feel creepy for anyone to be able to look up a list of every road you've walked down.'"
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Facebook's Graph Search Is a Privacy Test For Internet Users

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    There will be a backlash. Facebook will roll back the feature. Then in a few months, once the backlash has faded, they'll bring it back silently.

    • I fail to see how this feature will be accurate enough because FaceBook users are not all that consistent. I don't wish to be brash but the general population are the single most worst data entry officers / records keepers.

      FB is not set up or used to be used as a professional tool. E.G Going to a Dentist based on your friends "likes" **. Since "liking" a place, doesn't equate to the place being right next to you and your family members / friends could live on the other side of the country, therefore renderi

      • by TheLink (130905)

        I fail to see how this feature will be accurate enough because FaceBook users are not all that consistent.

        Yeah I have a friend who likes practically EVERYTHING. OK I exaggerate, it's only 6000+ likes. Another likes 3000. And another likes 70.

        FWIW I can't even find stuff I know is there with Facebook's normal search. Whether on my profile/timeline or a friend's. And it's with the exact keyword match too. Only stuff not older than a few days shows up. If I manually search for it, it's there.

  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by koan (80826) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @05:02PM (#42635257)

    What about those of us that do not want to participate in these things? At what point will it become awkward to say state I don't use Facebook, or will it just become some terrible social stigma ::whisper::"He doesn't have a social account.."::/whisper::

    • by Jetra (2622687)
      Welcome to Martyrdom. My name is Jetra and I'm one of few that don't use Facebook anymore.
      • Hi, Jetra. I can do you one better: I've never used Facebook and the few times I've gotten there by accident I've left as quickly as possible because I can't imagine there being anything there that could possibly interest me.
        • I'm allergic to Facebook.

          • You had it easy. When I were a lad we had to have our house painted Facebook blue, we were all issued with RFID "like" stamps we had to use at least 300 times a day before we were allowed any food, all rubbish had to be signed and scanned before it could be sent to Permanent Storage, and every tuesday evening Mark Zuckerberg would come round and we had to pick the athlete's foot flakes from between his toes.
          • by tehcyder (746570)
            Facebook killed my puppy when I was a young child.
        • In order to make graph search more valuable, we helpfully disabled all your privacy settings.

          • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

            by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @08:19PM (#42636135)

            "In order to make graph search more valuable, we helpfully disabled all your privacy settings."

            Not so far from the truth. In the last "update", they set everybody's "allow search" setting to True.

            Coincidence? I think not.

            • Has any so-called 'privacy' setting on Facebook ever defaulted to the least-sharing value?

              every new checkbox always defaults to the 'share everything to the most people' value
              all other checkboxes are configured to sporadically bump to the next higher sharing value, so your profile and info gradually get shared more, but you can't be completely sure if you made a mistake, or if it's a bug in Facebook

        • Mod up.

          I have a Facebook account. In fact I have several. I don't use them. They are only there for amusement.

          For example: when they came out with that "real name only" policy, I opened a new account under the most ridiculous name I could think of at the time. Not only is it still there, it occasionally gets friend requests.

          No doubt those are spam... I doubt anybody here at Slashdot who read the name would even consider "friending" that account. But it serves to illustrate the ridiculousness of the
          • And you all do this from separate internet connections and different browsers? If not, they still now it's you and they don't care if some of them are false.
            They just aggregate all the data from all the accounts tied to you.
            Even then, the more accounts FB has (even fakes), the more money they make. Or do you think they believe themselves all their users a real when they advertise their > 1 billion+ users.

            • "And you all do this from separate internet connections and different browsers?"

              I'm not trying to fool Facebook. Or not much, anyway. It's other Facebook USERS I'm having fun with.

        • I can go one better than that. I don't even use the internet, except the occasional booking at the library, to ensure I don't use Facebook. One time at the library I did stumble upon Facebook by accident, so I crushed the computer with a steamroller, closed my library account, and moved to a different city.

      • Okay, I'm a hypocrite. I don't have a FB account. But I think it makes far more sense to have a FB account that you fill with partly real, mostly bogus information than not having one and getting marked out as a oddball, paranoid, delusional type. The thing is, use FB the way savvy celebrities use the media. Generate just enough buzz to throw off the scent and make people believe you're a normal person, whatever that means. "Hold" fake opinions on non-controversial topics. Don't hold controvesial views on c

        • by Jetra (2622687) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @07:28PM (#42635891)
          Trust me, they can use anything against you when ti comes to mudslinging.
          • True. So be very extra careful of your likes. Keep criticism to the generic minimum or use weasel words, like "I think X isn't being entirely truthful" rather than using the libelous "L" word. Moreover, not having an FB account could set off a much louder alarm. IIRC the social networking footprints of suspects in recent mass violence cases were surprisingly low to virtually non-existent.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              IIRC the social networking footprints of suspects in recent mass violence cases were surprisingly low to virtually non-existent.

              Indeed, and there were front-page CNN and BBC stories about the "unusual" lack of social media presence. It's just the beginning, but not using Facebook like "normal people" is being looked at a possible predictor of deviant or violent behavior.

              Yay, 1984, here we come!

              • by tehcyder (746570)

                IIRC the social networking footprints of suspects in recent mass violence cases were surprisingly low to virtually non-existent.

                Indeed, and there were front-page CNN and BBC stories about the "unusual" lack of social media presence. It's just the beginning, but not using Facebook like "normal people" is being looked at a possible predictor of deviant or violent behavior.

                Yay, 1984, here we come!

                As long as they can't actually convict you just for not having a facebook account, I don't care.

                Possible predictors of deviant or violent behaviour don't mean a lot, as it is generally only after the event that people notice them. It's amazing how often someone will be described as creepy, weird, or somehow not normal after they've been convicted.

            • Naturally I'd like to shoot people as I have no facebook account. ......But I also don't have guns.
              Why should I have to change my behaviour because I maybe suspect?? What you are saying here is the same thing people told you in the former USSR etc.
              I think I'd rather move to North Korea then the US at the moment.

        • by kheldan (1460303) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @08:28PM (#42636199) Journal
          I don't have time to waste on bullshit like that.
        • "I think it makes far more sense to have a FB account that you fill with partly real, mostly bogus information than not having one and getting marked out as a oddball, paranoid, delusional type."

          I do. Just as with my Slashdot comments, I lay false trails. Enough that I usually know whether somebody is trying to mess with me, anyway. And yes, one or two people have fallen for it. Though they don't know it yet. I may just give them enough rope to hang themselves. We'll see.

    • by Ardyvee (2447206)

      I would be more worried about when will these searches only reinforce your belief instead of allowing you to be exposed to many different things. Unless, of course, you have polarities among your friends. However, the question still stands.

      And not having a facebook account? Well, if this becomes an stigma... this would be my reaction. [youtube.com] [youtube.com]

    • Take Control (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ideonexus (1257332) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @05:50PM (#42635433) Homepage Journal

      There's no social stigma to not using Facebook, but there is incredulity. People can't believe you don't use it, but I have lots of friends who have opted out of the social network. When people express shock at your lack of an account, just shrug nonchalantly and say you simply don't have time for it. A large number of people who are FB addicts are so because they have no higher purpose in life. If you're engaged with life, you aren't posting perpetually to your newsfeed.

      I confess I get a guilty pleasure out of the semi-regular meltdowns and drama people post on the site that they really shouldn't be sharing. People will post things to facebook or associate themselves with causes that they would never reveal to me were we in person, and people really need to think of Facebook as interacting with 100s of people in person and whether you're okay with every single one of those people knowing these things about you (this includes clicking "Like" or commenting on anything controversial, it's amazing the things I've learned about my friends watching the "Ticker" of activity--it's much worse than the public newsfeed). I have one friend who runs two accounts, a fake one with his real name where he maintains a professional facade, and a real one with a fake name where he feels free to talk about politics and make outrageous controversial statements.

      My strategy is that I use my real name on Facebook, but I remain highly cognizant of the fact that I am presenting a public persona. I've posted controversial subjects only a few times, and ended up pulling those things down. Instead, I try to post things that I feel present me in the best possible light. I word everything like a politician, keep my content engaging but noncontroversial, and block/hide anyone who posts controversial comments in response to my posts. There are one or two photos of me passed out at a party from 10 years ago online, but you can't find them anymore because I've flooded the internet with subjectmatter that I'm proud of and want associated with me. It's all in how you use it, and every single teenager should be put into a mandatory public school class to teach them how to manage their online reputations and the real life consequences of their online actions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am really puzzled that people don’t see that this is going in a really dangerous direction. Less than a decade ago there would have been a huge uproar if governments and/or corporations tried to map everyone’s connections and interests; now a huge portion of the populace is doing it for free. If a service like this is ‘free’ then it is you that are the product. I do participate in one ONLINE social network; linkd-in makes sense to me as a worthwhile transaction. I share my work his

    • by Anonymous Coward

      t what point will it become awkward to say state I don't use Facebook

      It has already reached that point. There are many employers who look at the lack of a Facebook profile as a warning sign, and will pass you over in favor of a "better adjusted" candidate.

      Want to be invited to the things your friends are doing? Better be on Facebook.

    • by stafil (1220982)

      Don't you follow the news? Apparently not having a Facebook account it's a sign you are a psychopath!

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2184658/Is-joining-Facebook-sign-youre-psychopath-Some-employers-psychologists-say-suspicious.html [dailymail.co.uk]

    • What about those of us that do not want to participate in these things? At what point will it become awkward to say state I don't use Facebook, or will it just become some terrible

      About the same time toilets come "standard" with IP enabled cameras.

    • I don't use a facebook and have seen no practical consequence. I do miss people's birthdays but frankly, with 500+ friends, odds are I would have forgotten to wish them a happy birthday anyway. Doesn't mean much to just post it on their wall. Below there are some comments saying that employers will look at the lack of a facebook as a warning sign. I can't say I'm an expert on the topic, but I've personally never encountered anything of the sort. No employer has ever asked me for my facebook and I doubt they
    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kheldan (1460303) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @08:26PM (#42636179) Journal
      You're implying that this doesn't already happen. It does happen. Personally I don't care, if people want to look at me funny because I don't have a goddamn Facebook account anymore, then they can go get fucked. I don't want to share; deal with it. That being said: If someone I've met is so interested in my life, they can damned well spend time with me in person doing so. If they don't want to do that, then maybe they're not worth knowing.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      What about those of us that do not want to participate in these things? At what point will it become awkward to say state I don't use Facebook, or will it just become some terrible social stigma ::whisper::"He doesn't have a social account.."::/whisper::

      Just create an account then. Just because you have an account doesn't mean you're forced to provide it with personal information. Or forced to actually USE it. Facebook has no power to compel you to post all your photos on it, or to post every little thing t

    • by Nyder (754090)

      What about those of us that do not want to participate in these things? At what point will it become awkward to say state I don't use Facebook, or will it just become some terrible social stigma ::whisper::"He doesn't have a social account.."::/whisper::

      Do what I do. Make a FB account. Put a picture of something instead of your own (I did Bob Dobbs JR.), then log in maybe once a year or so.

      So if someone i know wants to friend me, they can. Relatives friend me. It's great, because I get to ignore them. My relatives have my FB info, they seem to forget to ask me for my RL phone number and stuff. This way, I do NOT get bothered.

      FB has become my way to avoid people that might call me otherwise.

  • by checkitout (546879) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @05:32PM (#42635353)

    How often do you listen to your friends recommendations right now? How often are they right for you?

    You can be friends with a lot of people, and have different tastes in all kinds of things: music, food, movies, doctors, cars, clothing, ... etc.

    • by MLCT (1148749) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @06:27PM (#42635601)
      There are many many flaws. It won't work, and they only reason they are trying to make it work is because it is the *only* possible long term sustainable revenue generation mechanism for them, and they know it.

      But, as you say, it is logically broken. Further to it being broken, they risk destroying the function of the entire place that encourage people to go there ATM if it becomes some sort of recommendation/yelp market where pressure to share everything you buy, eat, listen to and watch takes over. Indeed ironically enough, google+ is actually a better platform for this to remotely work, as there is more of a culture of people grouping around topics they like rather than seeing the place as a real-life friend noticeboard/inbox.

      But we can observe from the sidelines as fb try and fail. Watching the media fawn over MZ is much like watching how they fawned over people like Lance Armstrong 5+ years ago - for those who have a decent amount of knowledge it is clear that there are fraudsters at work - but the media are not interested in destroying the story. By keeping it alive they can file page after page of copy.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Most people are still missing the point. Facebook sell ads. Everything Facebook does is about either selling more ads or being able to charge more for displaying ads. Their only possible long term revenue stream is advertising.

        What do web advertisers want? They want metrics. If you search for movies, or pizza recommendations etc and blow by the page right away they know something about the quality of the targeting algorithms. If you hang out on the page a long time before making any more http requests

        • by MLCT (1148749)
          I think pretty much everyone on here knows that - to the extent that when I say that search is the only possible long term revenue stream for fb, I am taking it as read that everyone knows that is in relation to advertisements. There is no other mass-market revenue stream for non-physical inconsequential goods or services.
          • membership fees?

            the 900 lb gorilla can demand things the 80lb pre-teen cannot.

            my wife would pay $5.00 a month, no question
            I woudn't, also no question..

            how many would---- is the question

    • Good point. The great thing about socializing in RL is the chance to be exposed to difference. That's one of the benefits of going away to college.

      I wonder what this flattening/homogenization of socializing will do to the way people socialize in the long term, especially with kids now that are growing up with social media being the default method of interacting.
  • by buravirgil (137856)
    Take the road less traveled.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's the kind of test that is used to separate dumb people from smart people and then to separate private information from the dumb people.

  • by Artifex (18308) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @06:07PM (#42635525) Journal

    Try a search for "gay people in Kenya," for example.

    I don't know if these people all made the mistake of thinking the "interested in" sections of their profiles would not be publicly visible by default, or whether they set them public but were relying on the obscurity of only friends looking them up. Perhaps some made their accounts years ago, and haven't kept up with the ever-eroding privacy on this site that requires you to go back and re-specify as private some things that used to be private by default. The point is, it hasn't been this easy before to just search for masses of people based on one common trait.

    Whether it's being gay [an orientation (not just a set of activities) still actively punishable by death or jail time in many countries], atheist or minority religion in a fundamentalist country, or some other minority that can be profiled ("people who like red hair in London" -- only partly joking, "gingers" do get bullied), a lot of people are about to find out what Facebook Feature Creep really means.

    • So, FB are finally getting around to putting the creepy in feature creep?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by makomk (752139)

      A couple of years ago, Facebook decided to make everyone's interests public [eff.org]. Not just public by default either - there's no longer any way of restricting who can view your interests, or your hometown, or your work and education history, or which pages you've liked. All of that is now unconditionally public, and all of it is now searchable too.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by LordLucless (582312)

        Lies.

        Hometown ,work, education history - all have a little widget next to them that you can use to select what audience can see them. Pages you like can only be controlled on a per-category basis (of which "interests" is one), but you can still choose whether to make them public or not. And it's only searchable if it's public.

      • They're more than welcome to check out my hometown (arkham, massachusets) or see where I went to school (Miskatonic U), or where I went to high school (sunnydale high).
      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Are you knowingly posting lies or are you not aware that what you say is false because you don't use facebook?
    • Try a search for "gay people in Kenya," for example.

      Nobody cares about gays. If you're looking to point out the evils of facebook stalking technology, don't point out minority groups in a country most people couldn't place on a map. Point out instead that kids are now fair game for stalking. *That* is an argument against Facebook that the soccer moms and politicians will get behind 100%.

    • Re: what Facebook Feature Creep really means...
      .
      My best guess as to what Facebook Feature Creep will mean about one month from now, when the next Facebook update occurs is:
      .
      Facebook Featured Creep: This week, we highlight and feature Facebook's Creep of the Week -- the person or corporate person who has done the most stalking or creeping or creeping out of others. Please note that Facebook itself, having already become Creep of the Century and Creep of the Millennium, is NOT in contention for the Faceboo
  • that I'll share my virtual girlfriend. she's mine, all mine!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Remember when we naively thought computers would allow us to live the leisure society as all the menial tasks would be done by computers, just like shoveling is done by machine these days? Instead we have the workweek from before the Industrial Revolution with computerized trivialities replacing real, actual worth.

    How do I get off this planet?

  • So if I want to get someone's login for a site, I can just search FB for the answers to personal questions...favorite movie, first car, birthplace, etc.

  • by rueger (210566) * on Saturday January 19, 2013 @06:48PM (#42635685) Homepage
    Well, perhaps not.

    Arguably "privacy" does not mean what it might have forty years ago. Some of that is related directly to the way that Internet technology can retain data, and the ways that that data can be searched and manipulated.

    That is something to be watched, and I've found myself more and more cautious about what I post on-line, but it's also a lot of what makes the modern Internet so damned useful.

    I like it that Google usually can guess what I need. I like it that Amazon can suggest books or music that I actually would like to buy. I like that my smartphone is such a phenomenally handy tool, one that I use many times each day, and that would be nowhere near as useful without the might of Google behind it.

    Hell, I like that I'm automagically logged into Slashdot every time I open up the site in my browser. It's handy.

    Still, despite all of this, I do find Facebook's latest "creep" to be a bit uncomfortable. And yes, I'm one of those people who trusts Google, but who somehow don't trust Facebook. Hence the vast difference between what I'll trust to my Gmail account, and what I'll post to Facebook.

    Still, despite the above, you have to accept that people's definition of "privacy" has changed. When I was growing up every house had an album full of photographs. If you came to visit our house we might show it to you, or we might not.

    Now I have relatives who have literally thousands upon thousands of baby pictures, kid pictures, family pictures, videos, and God knows what else all posted to Facebook and accessible to hundreds of people. By their standards this is normal, and OK.

    Instead of foaming at the mouth, or shrieking that no-one should ever be part of Facebook!!!, we should be figuring out how to manage a reasonable level of privacy in an age that will include Google, and Facebook, and all of those other fun and useful sites that we love.

    ps - I can recall, back in the seventies and eighties, knowing people who refused to own a telephone - their arguments sounded pretty much the same.
    • by kheldan (1460303)

      we should be figuring out how to manage a reasonable level of privacy in an age that will include Google, and Facebook, and all of those other fun and useful sites that we love.

      There IS no "reasonable level of privacy" because there is MONEY involved in all this, BIG money. MEMO: Facebook and other for-profit corporations do not care about you and your rights, they only care about their profits. They'd sell your body parts if they thought they could get away with it, they're sure as shit not going to scruple selling your personal information regardless of how you feel about it -- or more to the point, how they're working overtime to convince/indoctrinate you that it's OK to give a

      • by Murdoc (210079)
        I'm glad you brought this up. It's a pity that you weren't modded any better though. Until we take the money out of the equation, fighting battles like this is all up-hill.
    • Arguably "privacy" does not mean what it might have forty years ago

      Argues: No. Privacy means exactly what it used to mean. What's confusing you is that you have a lot less of it now, and that a lot of people -- perhaps including you -- are unaware of what they've lost.

  • A few years ago, kids assumed that "what happens on Facebook stays on Facebook". This emboldened kids to post stuff they wouldn't normally say in public. That's no longer true. Moms and dads and grandparents and employers are on FB and demanding to be friended. Hiring managers not only scan public profiles, they demand paswords to see the private stuff. The response is to fake up public profiles http://yro.slashdot.org/story/08/02/01/1618215/online-reputation-management-to-keep-your-nose-clean [slashdot.org]

    Facebook stupi

  • If someone had the desire and the resources, at least as to roads I've walked since they had both of those, sure they could make a list. So it's already possible. Or if I generally have them beside me when I walk, they'd either know or be able to mostly guess correctly, so I'm used to at least someone being able to do that. What does it matter if you all can? I chose what affects me, what happens in the universe or is done by others matters not very much at all...

  • This will only speed up the development of that highly anticipated private encrypted decentralized social thing site concept idea

    If it still exists.

  • Don't care, don't have Facebook account for just because of this kind of crap. Did I mention lately that I hate Apple, too? Ya, I guess I did in an earlier post.
  • I originally listed myself in Facebook some years back because those around me said it was interesting, however, I find it to be more annoying than interesting. But..my kids, my grankids, my adopted family and kids all seem to spend time constantly with it. I'm busy using the net for other things so I don't spend enough time with it to really understand it and those hundreds & hundreds of folks who all seem to want to be friends....well I wish I could easily dump them with one click. I use it only to c

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