How to protect your privacy from Facebook Graph Search

by Elizabeth Palermo, TechNewsDaily

You can run. You can hide. But you still won’t be safe from Facebook’s Graph Search.

After keeping it in beta for six months, the social networking site has finally unveiled its much-hyped new feature, which mines the data found in millions of Facebook profiles — and it could reveal more about you than you’d like.

Graph Search lets Facebook users put together seemingly unconnected bits of information about their friends, as well as friends of friends.

So if you want to know which friends from high school still live in your hometown, or which restaurants your friends in Boston “like,” Graph Search can help you find out.

Graph Search can’t reveal any information that users keep private, but it can use the information you do share in some unexpected ways.

Take, for example, the result of this Graph Search for married people who like prostitutes. Were these Facebook users kidding? Probably. Will their mother-in-laws think they’re funny? Probably not.

There are several way to combat such unseemly searches. First of all, you should figure out who can see the information you post on Facebook.

To do this, click on the lock in the upper right-hand corner of your Facebook homepage. From there, click on the bottom of the pop-up menu, where it says “See More Options.”

Doing so will display the entire “privacy dashboard.”From there, you can edit who sees your posts, pictures and profile information.

The more stringent you are with your privacy settings, the less likely you are to end up in other people’s Graph Search results.

It may also be a good idea to look through your Activity Log, just to see if you’ve made any posts public in the past that you would now rather keep private.

While you’re at it, you might want to keep your friendships secret. If you don’t, your friends’ profiles are more likely to appear in Graph Search results.

To change this setting, click on “Friends” on your profile page. Then click on the edit (pencil) button to edit who can see your friends list.

Of course, one of the most berated elements of Facebook’s privacy policy is that users can’t control what other people post about them. You can limit who sees your post, photos and friends list, but you can’t stop people from tagging you in posts and pictures.

All of the photos you’re tagged in are searchable on Graph Search, if the people who posted them have their privacy settings set to “public.”

To see if there are any incriminating photos of you floating around out there, type “photos of me” into the Graph Search bar.

If you find anything embarrassing, you’ll have a few options at your disposal to deal with the situation.

First, if an image is downright offensive, you can report it to Facebook and they can remove it altogether.

If it’s just unflattering, try “untagging” yourself. The picture will still show up in searches, but your name won’t be attached to it.

Another lapse in Facebook’s privacy policy has to do with the default settings associated with apps that use Facebook as a platform.

Unless you specify otherwise, the apps that your friends use have access to your private information, including your photos and status updates.

Creeped out? Don’t worry — there’s an easy way to keep your info locked up tight. From the privacy dashboard, click on “Apps” on the left-hand menu. From there, click on “apps others use” to control which information about you can be viewed by friends’ apps.

If you don’t use apps yourself, it may be worth it just to turn off the whole app platform. To do this, click on “apps you use” and then hit the “turn off platform” button.

For more tips on how to keep your Facebook information private, even to the prying eyes of Graph Search, check out the networking site’s Search Privacy page.

If you don’t want to be included in that search for single women who live near you, are interested in men and like getting drunk, then get to work on your privacy settings right now.