Rather than being something to fear, exposing the likes and decisions of Facebook users via Graph Search may encourage them to develop a greater sense of social responsibility.
If there is one thing that the Graph Search launch taught me it’s the strength of the anti-Facebook sentiment in some areas.
Consume you it will
People fear Facebook and its motives leading to a deep distrust and even expressions of hate. This can be a blinding force and, as we all know, hate leads to the Dark Side.
I have said before that advances in attitudes towards the social web have been largely fueled by the risks Facebook has been willing to take even if the company does push the envelope too far at times and get things wrong.
Facebook has been repeatedly criticised (rightly so) for automatically opting all users in to certain features but the news that there will be no opt out of Graph Search has recently angered a section of the online community.
Why should this be?
The primary complaints about Graph Search appear to be one related to privacy and that, as the primary social currency of Facebook is likes, there will be a low quality signal.
Facebook went to great depths to show that Graph Search will not override our privacy settings and, consequently, not reveal anything we are not permitted to see – it just makes it more “seeable”. This seems to be scaring a lot of people despite them complaining that EdgeRank means their friends may actually miss many of their posts.
While users should have the option to opt in or out of Graph Search I personally fail to understand why you wouldn’t want to be included. To me, opting out of Graph Search is like saying:
“I’m going to share this with a certain audience but I don’t actually want them to see it.”
There is a growing Facebook/Google divide with staunch Facebook users claiming Google+ is not a challenger while devout Google users argue that Facebook is faceless and evil – the fact that you cannot opt out of search backs up this view.
It is worth noting, however, that you also cannot opt out of search on Google+ and – as the privacy details note – your information is actually open to a much wider audience:
“Your name and any other fields that you make public in your profile are searchable on the web and may appear in Google Search results.”
Google search, both in Plus and the more traditional blue links page – applies to your posts, as they are indexed almost immediately, and the personal information you specify. Why should it be okay for Google to do this but not Facebook?
Both companies use out personal information, habits and social graph to improve their advertising businesses so is it because Google gives at least an element of control?
The Like is a throwaway act and, as such, people tend not to associate it with any potential consequences but each “social action” leaves a trail of bread crumbs that can be followed.
Graph Search makes following that trail far easier than ever before.
What if Facebook search makes users consider their actions or actually be the catalyst to ensure that their privacy settings are updated correctly? What if it encourages them to share more reservedly rather than pushing everything to public when perhaps they shouldn’t?
If search makes us all think twice about what we do before throwing Likes at everything like confetti at a wedding then this will serve to improve the intent behind our actions and, as a result, improve the reliability of signal that such a search provides.
The social web is constantly evolving with the “freaky line” shifting as people grow comfortable and live more of their lives online and in public.
Always in motion is the future.
Change is inevitable as technology and familiarity serve to alter our online habits – for better or worse.
Ultimately, we must all be responsible for our actions and the information we place online – in any forum – and make our own choices with regards to what we share with whom. The saying says “the internet never forgets” and we would be wise to heed that lesson.
Image cropped from a picture by indy_slug.