Creepy Side of Search Emerges on Facebook -
Facebook highlighted special privacy restrictions on its new Graph Search social discovery engine that filter young teens from some search results delivered to adults. The restrictions, pointed to after concerns about pedophiles, differ from other aspects of Graph Search, which generally has no special privacy controls beyond those already in place for the rest of Facebook.
The social network’s safety team talked about the restrictions in a Facebook post, which said, “for certain searches that could help to identify a young person by age or by their location, results will only show to that person’s Friends, or Friends of Friends who are also between the age of 13-17.”
There haven’t been any documented cases of Graph Search being used to prey on children, but some people got concerned after seeing contrived example searches of, for example, “women under 18 years old who live nearby and are not in a relationship.”
Exactly one month ago, when Facebook launched Graph Search, company executives anticipated privacy concerns and repeatedly said Graph Search is “privacy aware” because it respects privacy settings already in place. If someone isn’t allowed to a see a party photo on your timeline, for example, that same person won’t be shown the photo during a Graph Search reaching into your account.
But the context of search opens up a whole new set of privacy concerns. In the case of minors, simply showing up in certain searches at all is undesirable, something not easily addressed in Facebook’s existing settings (without simply deleting your account). In other cases, like when Graph Search exposes friends who use an embarrassing app, people elect to hide certain data they had previously opted to make public.
In fairness, Facebook was smart enough to separate teens from the start — and anticipated that privacy issues would arise, rolling out Graph Search slowly in part for that reason. “We take this really seriously,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the Graph Search launch event. “In addition to building these [privacy] tools, we need to get them in front of people so people actually see them before everyone in the world has Graph Search.”
As Graph Search reaches more users, Facebook plans to deploy a tool that will show people examples of how their information might be exposed in Graph Search so that they can adjust their privacy settings. It’s a good idea; the only problem is that creeps are always looking for ways to use Facebook data in ways the company never imagined.
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