If you follow this blog more or less regularly, you may be aware that I am not typically German when it comes to privacy issues. In other words, I do not expect a worldwide conspiracy behind everything related to data, and I promote a positively skeptical approach when it comes to privacy.
But seriously: Facebook’s Graph Search is going too far.
You may have heard about it, but possibly you haven’t tried it yet: Facebook Graph Search was announced in January 2013. No, it is not yet open to public use but you can get access to it via this link.
In Facebook’s happy world in which everyone just wants to find a restaurant recommended by his friends, this looks a bit like that.
Fact is: after playing with Graph Search for a couple of weeks, even I think it goes way beyond everything I have seen so far. There are definitely more sophisticated tools for data-mining. But Facebook Graph Search will become a tool for everyone’s everyday use. And that’s a huge difference to a sophisticated data mining project.
Interested in what it does? Let’s give it a try!
According to Facebook Graph Search…
More than 1,000 people like both, Greenpeace and Heckler & Koch.
Jesus Online & Youporn?Not a contradiction for more than 1,000 Facebook fans.
Interested what else these guys like? (Footnote: I can identify every fan of each of these pages if he hasn’t put his likes behind a fence)
Aaaaand…finally a very German example: about 100 German Facebook fans work at Bundeswehr and like Germany’s Nazi party NPD (Footnote 2: this is of course also combinable with my employer, your employer and any other combination you and I can think of).
I show all of these examples because they are no privacy breach according to Facebook’s definition.
Why? Because all of us voluntarily decided to like certain pages, events or entries. Unfortunately time is dynamic and a Like is just a button click away. Can you remember every Facebook like?
Plus: opening all this data to the public leaves one very important element aside: Context. Because, do we really believe that all Bundeswehr soldiers liking NPD are true fans? Possibly many of them oppose this party and just try to monitor their activities. This part of the story will never be told by Facebook Graph Search.
Doubtless: Facebook Graph Search is a nasty little stalker tool. Its search purpose is limited but it will become the weapon of choice for anyone trying to find out this little bit more.
Professionals were able to process data for a long time. But opening this opportunity to everyone is a grave mistake and it will harm Facebook in the long run.
When it goes public, people will begin to understand that their likes are more than just a symbol of support. Likes are the currency of the web. It’s the stuff that drives Facebook and generates their revenues. And that’s why people will hopefully start to discuss what is cool and what is not, when it comes to their own privacy.
Just in case: Here is a handy guide to hide your likes.
Thanks to denisejc for the image (creative commons license)