Facebook launched Graph Search recently for a select elite and a limited number of users in the US (Update: also select users in other countries). It is a different type of search that anyone can use to combine related public information in search. You can search for single women who live nearby and like to get drunk, married friends who like escort services or photos of friends who fly to Thailand every year.
Graph Search searches public information on Facebook as well as information that have been shared with you specifically. If you are someone's friend and that someone makes available a message to all friends, it is included in Graph Search.
Facebook has been criticized for Graph Search even though it is only a different way of searching contents that are already available on the site. The connections you can make are new and improved, but it is theoretically possible to find those out on your own. It will take longer that is for sure, but you would come up with the same end results.
Graph Search may have a positive effect on user privacy on Facebook. While I can't speak for all users, it seems that many tend to reveal information about themselves or friends without thinking about consequences of those actions. Graph Search may be the steam hammer that some Facebook users need to understand how the public or friends can use the data they post to profile them.
The only viable option to protect yourself from being included in Graph Search results that may be embarrassing, humiliating or life threatening is to make sure that you only share information on Facebook that you are comfortable with. You may ask yourself questions like "would I be comfortable if [insert person name here] would know about that" before you post something on the site. Replace person with mother, father, husband, wife or child for instance to come to that decision.
Facebook has published a new blog post entitled protecting your privacy in Graph Search that addresses some of the privacy related issues of Graph Search. The post addresses several frequently asked questions:
- How do I control what information shows up about me in Graph Search
- How do I control the audience of my likes
- Can people see things about my friends through Graph Search
- How do I view and control what photos of me are on Facebook
So, what I'd recommend you do, is check your profile for information that you have shared publicly or with friends, to remove access rights if necessary. Here are a couple of links to get you started with that:
- Activity Log - This lists all of your activities on Facebook
- Review photos - You shared or have been tagged in
- About - Information that you reveal about yourself on the about page.