Facebook has coded some special rules into Graph Search to make sure shady adults can’t stalk minors. Today Facebook clarified that searches that could identify kids under 18 by age or location won’t return any results for strange adults.
Facebook mentioned at the Graph Search launch that there were special protections for minors, but in advance of a wider rollout of Graph Search, it posted some details today on how it keeps kids safe. The Graph Search restrictions are extensions of existing barriers Facebook has
erected placed between adults and children, and its ban on public posts by minors.
“On Facebook, many things teens are likely to do – such as adding information to their timelines or sharing status updates – can only be shared with a maximum of Friends of Friends. In addition, for certain searches that could help to identify a young person by age or by their location, results will only show to that person’s Friends, or Friends of Friends who are also between the age of 13-17.”
Facebook also laid out some Graph Search safety tips. People should check their Activity Log and About sections to make sure they’re sharing the right info with the right people. And if they spot something sketchy on the social network, they should report it.
We haven’t heard much public outcry about Graph Search, but that’s because it’s only rolled out to a small percentage of users (you can sign up here for early access). Facebook’s smart enough to not freak out the whole world at once with an instant rollout, which also prevents backlash from snowballing. But once the rollout ramps up, expect to see some backlash, overblown privacy violation rumors, and people claiming they’re leaving Facebook for good.
Most people won’t, even if they say they will. Facebook is a central communication utility for a lot of people now. The question is whether Graph Search will have a more subtle chilling effect on sharing, or at least on sharing publicly.
Some people will be happy to share, and might even do so more frequently now that their posts could help friends find local businesses, vacations, or take a walk down memory lane. As I wrote, in some ways Graph Search makes privacy selfish and sharing generous. But others might get creeped out by strangers browsing their content, even stuff as innocuous as which dentist they prefer. They’d rather lock down their content or not post at all rather than worry about who might see it.
Graph Search has lots of practical uses, from photo browsing to business discovery to finding friends to hang out with on vacation. But if Facebook doesn’t convince the world it’s not creepy, it could shoot Graph Search in the foot before it’s even up and running.