The Creepy Side of Facebook's Graph Search

Read this before you “like” anything else

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Facebook Graph Search, it's sort of like Google for Facebook content, but a little more personal, and a lot more creepy.

What's So Special About Facebook's Graph Search?

Facebook's Graph Search basically let's you become an amateur data miner. You can mine for data, such as likes, interests, affiliations, and much more from your friends and complete stranger’s Facebook profiles (if their privacy settings are lax).

Advertisers will likely love Graph Search for assisting them with targeting potential customers. Stalkers couldn't be happier either as Graph Search will help them find singles in their area and will also assist them with finding out what their potential stalkees are into and where they hang out.

Concerned yet? You should be. This personal data mining stuff can get real scary in a hurry. All those things you like publicly on Facebook can now put you into a search results list with others who have the same interests. Now that you've been properly sorted and categorized you can be marketed to or otherwise targeted.

Why Scammers Will Love Graph Search:

How could this be used maliciously? Ok, we'll go down this road a little bit. Say I'm a scammer who wants to create a phishing scam that targets senior citizens in the state of Georgia. Maybe I want to trick these people into giving up personal information by telling them they've won a prize.

Facebook's Graph Search could be used to provide me with a presorted list of people who might be susceptible to this type of attack. I could tell Graph Search to search for people over the age of 70 who live in Georgia and like sweepstakes, the lottery, or some particular game show such as Wheel Of Fortune.

I could then craft my phishing email with content designed to pique their interest. By preselecting my victims with Graph Search, I have potentially improved my odds of success.

Depending on how relaxed a target’s privacy settings are, Facebook may return additional details about the potential victims. These details could help a scammer with a Spear Phishing type of attack.

Why Stalkers Will Love Graph Search:

Say a stalker is looking for that special someone. They can use Graph Search and search for "single women between the ages of 20-25 who graduated from Whatsamatta University and like Joe's Coffee Shop on Main St."

Again, depending on your privacy settings, you could end up in their search crosshairs, along with a photo of you, a list of things you like, places where you might be found, and potentially lots more useful information.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Being Data Mined by Graph Search?

Now that we’ve looked at a couple of scenarios that show how Facebook Graph Search could be abused, let’s see what you can do to avoid being included in search results:

Lock Down Your Privacy Settings

You need to take a good hard look at your privacy settings and make most items limited to ‘friends only’ as much as possible.

Check out our Facebook Privacy section for tips on how to limit what information different groups of people can see.

Make Your Likes Private

One of the things that Facebook's Graph Search is designed to do is mine people's "like" data. Once you've liked something on Facebook, you've put yourself into a category just by liking whatever it was that you liked.

Did you just like The Walking Dead TV show? Guess what? Now you can be grouped in search results of people who like the same TV show. Did you put in your profile that you live in Timbuktu Maryland? Now you've been put in that search results bucket of people as well.

By allowing profile information and "like" data to be publicly accessible, you've set yourself up to be targeted by data miners looking to match your interests and demographics to that of whatever they are seeking. Maybe it's just for marketing purposes, but it also could be for malicious uses such as scamming and stalking.

If you want to reduce the number of search buckets you end up in, you can hide your likes. Check out our article on How to Hide Your Facebook Likes for more information.

There's no guarantees that even with ultra-tight privacy settings and privatized likes that you still won't show up in Graph Search results, but if you do follow the above steps, you'll at least end up in a few less search buckets.