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Facebook Introduces New Search Tool—Powered by Your Social Network

January 17, 2013  |  11:00am
Facebook Introduces New Search Tool—Powered by Your Social Network

Facebook introduced a new search-engine like tool on Tuesday that uses the data already shared by users to help people find whatever they want on Facebook, according to The New York Times.

The new search tool, known as Facebook Graph Search sorts through your friends’ likes and other interactions with the social networking site to find what you’re looking for.

Essentially, it’s a search engine powered by your social network.

Here’s an example: Say you’re going on a trip to New York City and you want to know which restaurants you should visit while you’re in the area. Instead of doing a general search on Google and seeing recommendations of restaurants based the opinions of food critics and strangers on sites like Yelp, you could use Facebook Graph Search and sort through your friends’ recommendations (Facebook likes). Better yet, you could narrow it down to the restaurant recommendations from only friends who currently live in the New York City area.

The reasoning behind Facebook Graph Search is that you’re going to value your friends and family members’ recommendations above a list of links generated by search engine sites like Google.

One problem, however, that critics like Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, often mention is that a search engine driven by your social network pretty much requires that your social network have members that are constantly interacting with the site, constantly liking things and constantly checking themselves into locations whenever they go somewhere; because without data such as Facebook likes or check-ins to sort through, you’re not going get very many search results, if any, when you do search for something. It all depends on your friends’ willingness to update their lives down to the smallest detail and whether or not those products, services, people or businesses actually have a presence on Facebook for you to find or your friends to like.

So far, Facebook’s answer to that question is to supplement its search tool with its partner Bing, a Microsoft search engine. Whatever Graph Search can’t find, Bing will.

There are obvious privacy concerns that come with Facebook Graph Search. Do you really want other people actively searching through your information?

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, has said that before the new search tool is released to Facebook users, everyone will recieve a message reminding them to review their privacy settings, specifically the settings that control who sees what from your timeline. So according to Zuckerberg, no one can search through any of your information that isn’t shared with them.

The American Civil Liberties Union has recently issued a warning, telling users to review their privacy settings to prevent advertisers from gaining access to personal data.

But Facebook has pointed out that though a business owner could search through personal data, brand pages cannot. It is a violation of Facebook’s policies to manipulate users’ personal data to send promotional materials.

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