Facebook knows a lot about you – now anyone could find that information

by Kallan Glynn

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

How Facebook graph search is going to change the way we search in the future and why you need to know about it nowA Facebook search

A FEW weeks ago, I discovered the Facebook Graph Search feature. Wow.

Our Digital Expert Kenny has been going on about this for a while and I was surprised to see it had rolled out to all Facebook users even from my phone.

What is graph search? You might not have heard of this new feature and it would not be uncommon. Facebook Graph Search is a way of searching all the public data stored on Facebook, whether it be friends lists, photos a user likes, videos they view or pages they have commented on. Any user data stored on Facebook can now be searched by the general public, used in targeted marketing and possibly be used by journalists to sniff out stories.

All it really takes is typing into the search bar on the Facebook website. Experts are predicting that this feature may become just as big as a Google search.

Wait, what exactly can we search?

If you want to try it, some suggested search terms could be:

  • Pages liked by (Insert Name)
  • Photos liked by (Insert Name)
  • Posts liked by… (Insert Name)
  • Groups joined by (Insert Name)

Not only can you search this information about public page activity – you can also go deeper and search for the places people shop, eat, drink or visit on holiday.

  • Restaurants my friends have been too
  • Groups my friends have joined
  • Countries my friends have been

The list is endless if you’re clever enough to work out all the different key search terms and the key is, users are allowing this data to be public. Whether this is deliberate or not I couldn’t say, but what is clear is that anything you do on Facebook could now be considered a commodity and a form of online currency.

Dark Waters with text over, Facebook Search & The Dark ArtsFind out how to understand the dark arts of Facebook search and how it could be beneficial for your business. Our essential guids for businesses will help you get in on the ground floor.

Does it actually work?

Not being one to shirk the chance to experiment with new online tools, I decided to see just what information was available on me. I’ve got a pretty secure online presence, so expected there to be little that was public. Turns out I was wrong.

There was a whole host of photos I had liked, videos I had watched and shared and a detailed breakdown of all of my comments on pages, groups and this went back to the beginning of my very existence on Facebook. Pretty disconcerting that someone could get access to all of that – even if it was just  to serve me more relevant advertising.

Is this skynet?

A terminator robot, operate by SkynetSome would suggest that this was the beginning of Skynet, the robot baddies from Terminator, but I’m not inclined to agree with that level of drama, so won’t get out the tinfoil hat just yet.

In the time of free news, free social commentary and free to access entertainment all over the world, it’s clear that there has to be a profit for someone, somewhere. What we already know is that Facebook makes its money from advertising – and the depth of its data about each of us what makes it so obscenely profitable.

We willingly enter our data, providing them with a vast amount of it on a daily basis. So much so, Facebook knows us better than we know ourselves. It serves us adverts delivered by digital experts like Kenny, for products we didn’t realise we needed just yet.

How effective is it? It can even predict if you’re about to get married or if you’re pregnant.

Until now it seemed much of this data about us was locked away securely – accessible only by Facebook’s advertising algorithm. However, the new search functionality opens up the possibility that potential employers could also see all of this information. Or journalists could see all of this information. In fact, anybody might have access to it – if you don’t shut it down.

Coming from a generation that has grown up with ubiquitous social media, it strikes me that there isn’t enough education on internet privacy. Most of my peers don’t quite realise yet, in fact most people don’t quite realise that any activity you carry out publicly on Facebook is accessible.

Have your mates tagged you in a “funny image” or an image that could be considered offensive in nature – your employer most likely will be able to see it along with any other potential employers.

Do you run a business and reckon that your staff members could be considered a target during a crisis? Education is key. Facebook is not the enemy in collecting data – it works out best for us to give over what we want to – however, it’s important to know how to make private activity private or to at least create a social media policy for a business that covers any and all eventualities.

Discover how to harness Facebook search for your business and why a social media policy is essential.

We don’t tend to preach too much about social media policies, internet privacy or such. It is however becoming increasingly important to consumers and businesses. Find out how to harness and work with this properly by getting in touch:

Phone us on 0131 561 2244 or fill out the simple form, below and we’ll get straight back to you.

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Kallan Glynn joined PR agency Holyrood PR as an apprentice

Private: Kallan Glynn

Kallan Glynn joined Scottish public relations agency Holyrood PR as part of the Government-approved QA Apprenticeships scheme. It means he is learning the ropes from an expert PR team.

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