Facebook Graph Search won’t change your privacy settings

Facebook is launching its Graph Search product [1] shortly and one of the questions a number of people have asked is how this new feature affects their privacy on Facebook? The main concern many people have is that Graph Search will enable other users who are not necessarily their friends to locate them and discover previously restricted information about them. Fortunately this is not likely to be the case. Facebook, as with other major services, has become far more sensitive to users’ concerns and has taken a few steps to reassure users.

Facebook prepared a helpful video which explains how to manage some of your privacy settings and which gives you a short overview of how Graph Search works:

That said, Graph Search really highlights the importance of being aware of what you are sharing with whom and taking adequate steps to manage your content and data on Facebook (the same can be said for other social services). Users who have not be careful to customise their sharing settings based on their particular comfort levels and sharing preferences may receive a rude awakening when Graph Search goes live and old posts are uncovered by other users. As I pointed out in my previous post

From a privacy perspective, Graph Search presents an interesting conundrum for Facebook users. On the one hand, users have selected their privacy settings and have exposed their profile data to selected groups of friends using some fairly granular privacy controls. On the other hand, users have become accustomed to accessible profile data becoming hidden by obscurity, in some cases, and by the sheer volume of posts, updates and other content which they have published to their Social Graph in the form of Timeline over the years. This is really an extension of a similar concern which arose when Timeline was unveiled. Graph Search makes previously hidden profile data not only more readily available but contextually available to.

This still doesn’t mean that previous restricted posts will be shared publicly. It does, however, mean that you have to think back to what you may have shared on Facebook and which could be exposed through Graph Search. It is possible to change the publicity settings for your past posts in your privacy settings.

As a user, you should go through your privacy settings and profile data and make sure the publicity settings are set to suit your preferences. Graph Search won’t expose your data to people who can’t access it now but it may unearth posts you have forgotten about and would prefer remain forgotten. If this is something that concerns you, take some time to update your settings and data before Graph Search rolls out to everyone. It is worth the time and you may discover a few settings you weren’t aware of previously.


  1. If you’re not familiar with Graph Search, take a few minutes to read our post titled “Facebook Graph Search challenges contextual privacy further ↩

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