Recently, Facebook took a major step towards getting more serious about search by introducing Facebook Graph Search. Originally rolled out in 2013, Facebook Graph Search recently became available via mobile on iOS devices in the United States.
Facebook Graph Search features a keyword search option that allows users to dig up old News Feed posts by friends. The main focus of this shift, according to Facebook, is to help users rediscover thoughts and memories. However, there are skeptics who think that this latest announcement comes on the heels of concerns that social media giants, like Facebook, are taking another step towards data mining.
How Facebook Graph Search Works
Facebook Graph Search on mobile works similarly to desktop devices. Simply type in keywords (ex: Jason’s birthday), and it will yield a list of filterable results.
You can use the Facebook Graph Search to search for people, posts, photos, places, pages, groups, events, and more.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Facebook Graph Search
- Allows you to search for old news, posts from friends, etc. that may otherwise be buried in your news feed
- Currently has no ads
- Filters are available for a more ‘refined’ search experience
- Doubles as a privacy tool, allowing you to change the privacy of your own posts via keyword search
- Can act as an information source
- Only works within your friends’ posts; strangers do not have access to your posts.
- While there are currently zero ads for Facebook Graph Search, speculation points towards Facebook potentially adding ads down the line as a viable revenue source.
- While your privacy settings aren’t changing, now anyone armed with the right, or wrong keywords can pull up your worst moments (versus having to dig through tons of old news stories).
- While it currently only allows your friends to search within your posts, there is speculation that search may be made public down the line.
Implications of Facebook Indexing Users’ Posts
So far, Facebook Graph Search seems like another harmless tool to make it easier to navigate Facebook. However, there are tremendous implications directly related to the fact that Facebook is indexing 1 trillion of our Facebook posts.
As evidenced by the above bullet points, there are several benefits as well as potential drawbacks to Facebook Graph Search for mobile (and in general). Of major concern is the issue surrounding users’ privacy. Currently, Facebook allows you to set the privacy of your posts. Only those who are friends with you can perform keyword searches on your Facebook. However, there is no telling whether this will remain or whether Facebook will open up the keyword search feature to the public.
With Facebook Graph Search for mobile, any post by you or any of your friends is easily accessed – even those once long, forgotten posts that you thought were safe.
Facebook Search may also rival Google search results by indexing much of the “un-Googleable” information, thus making Facebook more of a threat to search engines.
Finally, Facebook’s News Feed could learn to mimic our external dialogue, examining content that we’ve shared with friends and showing us similar posts. This may eventually lead Facebook to filter certain information out of your News Feed entirely. All of this ties into how Facebook may take advantage of keyword advertising, though this is yet to be seen.
In the meantime, those who are concerned with privacy issues amy view this as a wake-up call to online data sharing. Take advantage of keyword search to filter or remove posts that you don’t want others to see; and as a general rule, if you’re going to share something with your friends online, be absolutely certain that the shared item won’t come back to bite you. If you’re having to filter posts and remove information now, chances are – you shouldn’t have shared it to begin with.