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Facebook’s new Graph Search feature turns up unexpected results

On Monday, July 8, Facebook introduced a new feature called Graph Search to users operating in US English. The feature combines all the information and preferences that users have made public into one search function, making more complex searches available and often yielding unexpected results.

Photo courtesy of Dream out loud/Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of Dream out loud/Wikimedia Commons.

Graph Search, which will become more widely available in the coming weeks, allows for users to search people, places, events and preferences with more ease. Whereas the previous search feature often left users frustrated and unable to find their desired target, the new search allows for a more dynamic experience.

Instead of only searching for people, users can now find results for inquiries with more variables. For example, searches such as “vegetarians in Texas,” “people who like Elton John and Italy” and “Sarah Jones who likes running” may yield viable results.

gavel2Facebook's motivation in creating Graph Search extends well beyond improving the user experience. By accruing more in-depth searches its users make, the company can provide more focused advertising. At the same time, the feature provides businesses the opportunity to gain more search results and motivates them to promote themselves via Facebook.

Faults and unexpected consequences of the new feature have become clear since its release, with an entire Tumblr dedicated to the humorous potential of Graph Searches. The Tumblr Actual Facebook Graph Searches demonstrates the ironies that the feature allows the user to find. For example, searches such as “Mothers of Jews who like bacon” and “Married people who like prostitutes” yield a multitude of results.

Photo courtesy of LMFAO/Wikimedia Commons.

Photo courtesy of LMFAO/Wikimedia Commons.

While Graph Search does not use information which users have made private, many users remain ignorant or misinformed of their own privacy settings. Tagged photos or locations and likes that are public, for example, will be available to curious strangers using Graph Search.

To find out more about the program and how your privacy settings will affect your searchability, check out Facebook’s explanation here.

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School, major and year: A&S ‘14, Political Science
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