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On the Growing Encroachment of Social Privacy

Posted by QuoteColo on October 18, 2013 - Updated on October 14, 2013

social privacy

Unless you are a follower of Social Media Today or various social media blogs like Mashable, the new privacy settings of Facebook might have eluded you. This miss is understandable as the announcement was made mid afternoon on a busy Thursday in October.  The change in policy is simple yet disturbing. For the past few years, eve though you might have been an active Facebook user, Zuckerberg and company allowed you to hide your profile for active by name Facebook profile searches. Key word, allowed.

The new policy effectively eliminates hiding in plain sight. With all profiles now searchable through Facebook search, let’s explore why this happened and how it will impact the Facebook user base.

The Impact of Graph Search

Without question the single largest reason for Facebook’s change in social privacy stems from Facebook Graph Search. For those of you who don’t know what Facebook’s Graph Search is, the social search feature was released as a public beta a couple of months ago and finally became live around 2 months back. The social search feature is exactly that – the first attempt to search for data mixed with personal profiles at the same time. A quick example of Graph Search is Facebook now allows user’s to search for “friends who like baseball and the Chicago Cubs.” That search query yeilds the exact results the search calls for. Before Graph was instituted, a real time social data + profile search simply wasn’t possible. You could search for friends and you could search for data (interest) however never both at the same time. Simply put, Graph Search is Facebook’s attempt at marrying the best of Google Search with the best of the old Facebook search capabilities.

In addition, as much as no one wants to talk about it, Facebook’s hashtag inclusion is playing a large role in opening up the social giant’s privacy policy.

The Impact of Facebook Hashtags

Forget that Facebook’s hashtags inclusion into wall posting isn’t bearing out the viral or the engagement ability which Facebook hoped for. Additionally forget that hashtags have been actively being used on the social format since they took hold on Twitter with no real world search capabilities.  Also forget that due to hashtags not working on Facebook until recently has spawned numerous anti hashtag pages with hundreds of thousands of likes. All this aside, profiles recently became fully searchable to allow for greater granular hashtag Graph search abilities. Graph Search and hashtags are perfectly built for one another. Through joining both, users have the ability to nit only find data + social but data + social + real time conversations on trending/non trending topics.

While it makes sense for Facebook to travel down the path they are on, from the user point of view the marrying of social search with hashtags has created a lack of social privacy environment even for those Facebook users who, under the old privacy policies, could remain as anonymous as possible. This possible anonymity no longer exists.

The Impact of Social Privacy

The question now has to be asked, even with Facebook mandating open profiles through Graph Search, does Facebook know better than their users? Even from the outsider’s point of view that doesn’t utilize social networks to join in mass personal over sharing, we love in a culture that empowers, pushes and claps for sharing of personal information. It used to be that corporations fought for our personal information. Now we dole it out with the ease of breath. It’s second nature in our landscape. Over sharing, constant updates, tweets, status updates, Instagram photos – it’s all there for the world to see. We are constantly giving away our personal information to strangers who we call friends all the while knowing that personal data is being repurposed in the servers of corporate America to track and market to us.

Again, the question really is, does Facebook know better than their user base when it comes to issues of privacy? If you stop to look around and smell the roses, the answer seems to be yes. We share and do so willingly. Why should anyone be non-searchable in the era of instant social search?

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