On the 15th of January, Facebook announced Graph Search, an expansion of their search feature. Here’s a three minute intro from some of the folks at Facebook:
Now that we have that out of the way, Graph Search has had a great deal of news coverage, at least when it was announced. However the average user may not even be aware that it’s slowly rolling out to people each day, and those people are conducting many different searches. While Facebook has been clear that your privacy settings drive what people can find about you, it has been my experience that many people are not very thoughtful about their privacy settings, or they set them and then forget them, not realizing that as Facebook makes changes, that they should go back in and update them.
In the past it hasn’t really mattered as significantly as it is now going to matter because in the past I could search for people or organizations by name. Now I can search for “People who work at Champlain College” or “Students who go to Champlain College” and I can get a wonderful visual result of all of those people (my friends first and then others). In the view below I am able to see all the profile pictures in a grid format. I can also choose to see the results in list format.
When I mouse over the individual’s picture I get even further information in a helpful pop up:
So you may be wondering what the big deal is. Well there are two ways to look at this — and I look at it in both of these ways.
Way 1: HOLY CRAP THIS IS AMAZING! No. Really. The ability to leverage the social graph of people to find places to eat, individuals with similar interests, pictures my friends or family took in different places at different times is super awesome! It’s like, “Hey Facebook…what took you so long!”. The fact that it has taken this long to pull this together continues to surprise me.
Way 2: HOLY CRAP THIS IS TERRIFYING! Yes. Really. If your privacy settings aren’t fully updated and you haven’t given careful consideration to the things you have “liked” and your interests, all sorts of craziness can ensue. Just check out some of these great searches that @tomscott has pulled together and posted on a special Tumblr page.
If I were a college student getting ready to apply for an internship or getting ready to graduate, I’d be a little nervous. What I’m finding is that I have students who feel very confident that they’ve locked down their profiles and so far the only person I haven’t been able to actually find on Facebook has been my colleague @jtrajewski who says he has a personal page, but all I can find is his official page. Of course, Jon is in Digital Forensics and those people are very, very careful about content they share with free social media sites…or with any website for that matter. By the way, you should follow him. Go on. Go do it now. He’s super smart and knows all sorts of security things.
Anyway here are my tips for College Students (and others) who want to be prepared for the full roll out of Graph Search.
- Only post what you are comfortable with ANYONE seeing. It’s not just about Grandma. It’s about an employer. It’s about law enforcement. It’s a spouse or a partner. Make sure you keep in mind that just because you share it with your friends doesn’t mean it couldn’t show up in search in some way. Remember, the only true privacy setting you have on Facebook is what you choose NOT to post.
- Update your Privacy settings. Facebook recently made this “easier”. Just click on the little padlock to get some of the basics, or click on the gear and select Privacy Settings. I’m fairly intentional about mine as I allow followers and I let people find me via my work phone and email as well as have search engines find me. I do that because of the work I do. If I didn’t do this work, I’d change it. What follows are some screen shots that might help you to find and consider how you might want to address your global privacy settings.
I’m also careful about my Timeline and Tagging. I don’t let people post on my timeline, which frustrates them on my birthday, but other than that it’s not a big deal. They can still tag me in posts and comment on my posts so it all works out. I review all posts that I’ve been tagged in before I allow them on my timeline as well. I use custom settings for “only me” for many things as well.
Take a few minutes to review the help section on Facebook on Privacy with Graph Search: https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch/privacy
- Clean up your photos. This is no easy task. Facebook is not making it easy to do a global switch on the visibility of your images. Remember that cover photos are always public. Each photo has it’s own privacy settings. If you don’t want things to come up you need to delete them or change the privacy settings on EACH ONE. Conversely if you DO want them to come up, adding in tags and a strong description will help people find you/your photo.
- Clean up your groups and apps. Super simple. From your news feed just click on “more” next to the groups section in the left navigation (it is hidden until you mouse over it). This will give you a list of all the groups you belong to and you can then easily remove yourself from the groups you do not want to be associated with. Do the same thing for any Apps you are running. To do the same things for pages, you’ll have to go through the Activity Log.
- Monitor your Timeline: Look through your Timeline and hide things that you don’t want people to see. Please remember that this does NOT prevent others from seeing them if your friends have tagged you in them or if they can be associated with your friends in some way. It just hides them from your Timeline.
- Monitor your Activity Log: Can’t remember what pages or posts you liked? Can’t remember what you commented on? Check out that Activity Log. Consider it the main dashboard for every action you’ve taken on Facebook. This is where you see all the content you have posted based on category, such as the friends you friended and all the songs you listened to (with Spotify or other apps). Once you remove something from here it is essentially removed from the interface… I won’t say it’s actually removed because, well, it’s the internet and we all know that means there’s a cache of this somewhere on some server. To get to your Activity Log click on that little gear, then click on privacy and then under “who can see my stuff” click on “use activity log”. You’ll probably find some interesting surprises.
There you have it. Six things to do to get your Facebook profile ready for Graph Search. Naturally you should do this every few months or so, or whenever Facebook makes a change (whichever comes first). Or whenever you forget to log out of your account and when you get home your cat is hanging around looking really, really innocent.