Facebook’s new graph search weakens users’ privacy


Most college students can say they access at least one or two social networking programs a day. From posting “Throwback Thursday” pictures on Instagram to tweeting their latest activity on Twitter, many college students post their everyday lives on social network accounts.

Millions of students utilize social media daily. However, with advancing search capabilities, students may want to think twice about what they post. (Photo by Kaitie Fox)

“I use Twitter a lot,” freshman communication arts major Sydney Redmon said. “I am always checking my Twitter and I usually tweet at least five times a day. I don’t post everything online but I also don’t completely hide everything, I am a little more open when it comes to that.”

According to StatisticBrain.com, the total percentage of 18-24 year olds who use social media is estimated around 98%.

Mediabistro.com reports that every minute of the day, 100,000 tweets are sent by college students, meaning 144,000,000 tweets are sent on a daily basis.

“I usually tweet at least one or two times a day,” junior nursing major Emily Tomei said. “But most of my time that is spent on Twitter or Facebook is when I’m just scrolling through the news feed.”

And that is usually the way most college students spend their time on social media: looking through others’ statuses, pictures and interests.

“I mean, I am sitting on Facebook right now,” sophomore communication arts major Scott Whitaker said. “I probably scroll through my news feed like twice a day.”

But when does this search for similar interests become an invasive threat to one’s privacy? When does liking a certain interest or posting a picture or status become an issue?

Facebook’s latest invention, the advanced graph search, has caused a new dialogue about user privacy.

According to Socialmediatoday.com, the new Facebook graph search is a social search feature that was announced Jan. 15. The feature is currently in private beta with a waitlist for individuals and businesses to be up and ready to go for the entire user base to access.

The search tool not only asks for a user’s name but also asks for the kind of interests, likes and dislikes, age, location and etc. The more information a user may know about you, the more likely they are able to find you.

It is a synchronized search for customized information by filtering data from profile connections. And how it works is with a few types and clicks of specific information that a user may be looking for.

For instance, if you type in “male who lives in San Diego and likes dogs”, all Facebook users that match that search pop up.

The graph search can get as specific as what a user looks up or posts. The more information a user holds on Facebook, the easier it is for another user to find them.

And if you are one of the many Facebook users that have their profiles set to public, you may have to prepare yourself for being exposed to the largest audience ever in the media world.

“I think it is kind of intimidating,” Redmon said. “It’s one thing if you just search a person’s name and they come up but I feel like that could be really personal and it could be a lot easier for people to find you. It’s a little scary that it’s becoming that advanced with searching people.”

“I think I just won’t “like” anything anymore on Facebook,” Whitaker said. “But if it helps me find my future wife, I’ll use it.”

According to PCWorld, experts have also agreed that this new customized search could be a hazard to people’s privacy and safety, and are urging users to raise privacy settings to avoid embarrassment or legal issues.

Facebook also announced that any user has the capacity to control his or her own privacy on Facebook and that the inventions of its company are only intended to change the world of media.

“You control who you share your interests and likes with on Facebook,” the company said in an emailed statement according to PCWorld.

But many people agree that Facebook does not educate the users enough to hide what they are sharing with others.

“If all your information is on Facebook than that is your fault,” Whitaker said. “If you are going to put where you live and your likes and dislikes, and everything else about your life then yes, it will be a problem.”

“I think people spend too much time on it. And I think they create shallow relationships. I have over 500 friends and I don’t know more than half of their middle names. “

“I think Facebook does need to inform people and educate them better about their privacy,” Tomei said. “Although it may seem harmless, the simplest “like” could destroy someone. And I know for one I do not want to be found by some weirdo that has 20 pets because I decided to like animals on Facebook.”

Although Facebook may have frightened its users, the invention of the graph search has also sparked other minds for new opportunities.

Businesses and other profitable marketing administrations have found this new graph search to be helpful for business and marketing tools.

“I believe Facebook is creating this more so for business and it is targeted towards the statistic part of it,” Whitaker said.

It’s inevitable that the world of media will continue to surprise us. Privacy invasion or not, the world of social media will continue its blossoming project to exposing the world.

So rather than “liking” a certain status or posting your every move,  next time think about what you may want people to know about you, and whether or not liking that “dogs” category could lead you to exposure.

Tina Oprean is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.

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