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

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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  • 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:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2013 @05:59PM (#42635467)

    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 history and colleagues in exchange for the possibility of continued gainful employment. So in summary, I’m saying that it isn’t that I don’t see any purpose in sharing this information it is that I don’t think it is worth NOTHING, and I can guaranty that Google and Facebook agree with me.

  • 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.

  • 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 makomk ( 752139 ) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @06:45PM (#42635673) Journal

    A couple of years ago, Facebook decided to make everyone's interests public []. 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:Take Control (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @07:08PM (#42635793) Journal
    I don't use FB and don't have a mobile phone. It's not a deliberate strategy, I just don't like people that much.
  • by Jetra ( 2622687 ) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @07:28PM (#42635891)
    Trust me, they can use anything against you when ti comes to mudslinging.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 19, 2013 @08:09PM (#42636069)

    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!

  • 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 kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Saturday January 19, 2013 @08:28PM (#42636199) Journal
    I don't have time to waste on bullshit like that.
  • Re:Take Control (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ideonexus ( 1257332 ) on Sunday January 20, 2013 @01:17PM (#42640043) Homepage Journal

    Not fake. It's the real me, but a selective presentation of myself. We all wear many faces. The person I am in the workplace is not the same person I am at the bar with my close friends is not the same person I am when I'm with my family. That's just a natural part of being a social animal.

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.