The search bar on Facebook so far had limited features and was mainly used for finding friends, apps, groups, and ‘Pages’. But the social networking giant is rolling out a huge update to its search functionality, called Graph Search, which will make all the updates you make ‘searchable’.
For example, till now, if you used Facebook Places to let your friends know of the restaurant or club you visited, that update would appear on their Newsfeeds and then disappear from immediate view. But with Graph Search, if your friend were to search for that restaurant on Facebook, say two months after you made that update, the fact that you visited the restaurant will show up in the results. If you have clicked photos at this restaurant and uploaded them on Facebook, those will show up too.
“The key differentiator of Graph Search is that it gives you direct answers rather than mere links which Google search provides. The search results come through based on what your friends have recommended,” says Zafar Rais, CEO, Mindshift Interactive, a digital media agency.
Such features can help users a lot when they are looking for a recommendation. On the other hand, it also makes, ‘searching for, say, friends of my friends who are single’ real easy. Imagining such scenarios in future, some foreign news agencies carried headlines like ‘Facebook simplifies stalking’.
Expecting just such a reaction, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, spent a considerable time during the launch explaining how this new feature would not violate existing privacy rules. He pointed out that updates shared only with your friends will not show up when someone outside of your friend circle is making the search query. Only your public updates will show up in such cases.
This, however, may not be enough to quell suspicion about the motives of Facebook, which has been severely criticised in the past for diluting user privacy to enable marketers to serve ads to users based on their Facebook updates.
“Right now, there is no way for me to index everything that I have shared on Facebook,” says Aditya Gupta, co-founder of Social Samosa. “Facebook is saying that you can go to your Activity Log to see all the activity from your account, and remove the stuff you don’t want to remain public. But I don’t know how users will manage to review their data from the time they started using Facebook.”