If you ignored Facebook’s Graph Search when it was first announced at the beginning of the year
, it’s time to give the controversial new search engine another look, because it’s rolling out to all U.S. accounts over the next few weeks. Whether you like the search engine will depend on how much you want to find out about your friends and what they like – and how comfortable you are with your own info turning up in people’s search results.
A Facebook server room. Image Credit: Facebook
With more than a billion users, Facebook
has a treasure trove of personal data: what restaurants users frequent, what stores they shop at, what they like to buy, where they’ve been, and where they are now. Facebook is aiming to use that data to make its searches more useful. Want to know the best place in town for sushi? Graph Search can tell you what restaurants your friends like. Looking for photos of the beach? Facebook can put your friends’ beach photos at the top of the search results.
Facebook sees Graph Search as a much-improved engine over its current tool, and has been promoting Graph Search’s speed and the relevance of its results. Critics worry that the increased reliance on user data (and its ability to dredge up old info and pictures) will be handy for marketers and, more importantly, stalkers. But the search engine doesn’t give users access to data that they didn’t already have permission to see. Facebook has enhanced its privacy
settings over the years, and you can configure your privacy settings to protect data that you don’t want shared.
Facebook has tested the new tool with tens of millions of users in recent months, without such problems. Now that the general public is getting Graph Search, we’ll see if the new search engine causes an uproar – or gets a warm reception.