Facebook’s Graph Search: Personal Information Search On Steroids For The Masses

Facebook has slowly been rolling out a new search feature this year called Graph Search. This new ‘product’ is said to deliver a brand new experience that allows you to get information you would not get from a typical search engine, something like a more ‘wholesome search experience’.

With Graph Search, getting information has never been easier. But don’t take my word for it. Tom Stocky, Product Director at Facebook sums it up nicely: “Now it’s easy, you can say what you want and you get the results”.


Facebook is one of the biggest personal data aggregators in the world and one where users willingly feed info into. For many reasons, some of that information can end up in the public domain.

Although Facebook has made a lot of efforts to have easy to use privacy settings, many people don’t realize that their comments or likes can still be viewed by outsiders in certain cases.

The fact of the matter is that privacy remains an issue because it is too easy to slip and share more than we really ought to, or have ‘friends’ with more open profiles tag us and therefore expose us to the world.

The filter options within Graph Search reminds us of how much data we can already share:

  • Name, Gender, Age Range, Relationship, Languages, Religious Views, Political Views
  • Birth Year, Current City, Live Near, Hometown, Visited, Checked-in
  • Friendship, Relationship with, Married to, Engaged to, Partners with, Relatives of, Parents of, Stepparents of, Sibling of, Children of, Cousins of
  • Employer, Position, Employer Location, Time Period
  • School, Class Year, Concentration, Degree
  • Likes, Following, Admins of, Members of, Apps they use
  • Tagged in, Commented on, Interacted with, Created

In addition to this data users willingly post, Facebook also contains a treasure trove of metadata such as how and when you login, where your photos are taken, etc. An artificial intelligence system can deduce things about you simply by reading a comment you posted and cross-referencing it with some otherwise innocuous data.

The potential for abuse is tremendous and announcement of this feature has already raised many eyebrows. It is a stern reminder that what we post online can have real life consequences such as public humiliation, job loss or even persecutions if you happen to live under certain political regimes.


As the Graph Search feature is now officially out, you might want to read and review its privacy implications because using Facebook means you agree with its Terms and Conditions for better or worse.


Jérôme Segura

Principal Threat Researcher