Tue, Jul 09, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Facebook promotes search feature

PREFERENCES:The updated tool makes it easier to make detailed searches, and Facebook plans to remind its users to check the privacy settings on their accounts

AP, NEW YORK

Users who may have grown frustrated with Facebook’s rudimentary search feature are getting an updated version designed to make it easier to find people, places and photos on the site.

Facebook unveiled its social search tool in January, but only made it available to a small fraction of its 1.1 billion users, as its engineers continued to tweak and test it.

Starting yesterday, the company is rolling out the social search tool, called “Graph Search,” over the next few weeks to everyone whose language is set to US English.

Unlike searches on Google, which are good for finding specific things, Facebook’s tool is useful in unearthing information about your social circles.

Graph Search lets you find friends who live in San Francisco who are vegan. Friends of friends who live near you and like hiking. Photographs of your boyfriend taken before you met him in 2010. Nearby restaurants that your friends like — and so on.

However, soon after Facebook launched the tool, the Internet had a field day with less innocuous and more embarrassing queries, showing just how much information people reveal about themselves on the site, intentionally or not. Care to find out which brand of condoms your friends prefer? Graph Search might tell you.

A blog called actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com posted a collection of searches ranging from “married people who like prostitutes” to “current employers of people who like racism.” Both yielded more than 100 people.

While it is possible that some of those Facebook users are fully aware that what they have shared is easily searchable, it is likely that some are not. It is easy to click “like” on a page and forget about it.

To avoid any unpleasantness, Facebook plans to notify users that it’s “getting easier for people to find photos and other things you’ve shared with them” along with a reminder that they can check “who can see my stuff” under their privacy settings.

“The goal is to avoid bad surprises,” Facebook privacy and safety manager Nicky Jackson Colaco said.

However, she said Facebook’s view that the search tool “indexes information differently than we have ever been able to do before, in a really positive way.”

Facebook does not currently show users ads based on what they are searching for, but the company may do in the future. As Google has shown, it is a lucrative business.

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