Facebook unveil new search facility

Is Facebook parking its tanks on Google’s lawn? That might be putting it a little strongly, but the new Facebook Graph Search software does seem to be creeping closer to the notion of a Facebook search engine.

Graph Search allows Facebook users (and there are over a billion of them, remember) to quickly access information from friends’ profiles and classify it, much like a Google search. Google boss Mark Zuckerberg used the example of a search to find his friends in the San Francisco area and arrange them by the closeness of the relationship. His sister came out top. Ain’t that nice?

"I thought it couldn't be done," Zuckerberg. "This is just some really neat stuff. This is one of the coolest things we've done in a while." The feature was developed with the input of Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which seemed like a deliberate snub of Google. Zuckerberg explained that Google was unable to work within Facebook’s privacy provisions. Conspiracy theorists might see it as the beginning of a strategic alliance to challenge the big G’s dominance of the search engine field.

The concern among users, as ever, is privacy and safeguarding who has access to their data. Although the burden still remains on the individual Facebook user to ensure that they are vigilant about maintaining their privacy settings, Zuckerberg said that privacy was already built into the Graph Search software and that about 10% of Facebook’s overall computing power is already devoted to privacy issues.

Privacy and security become more important when users realise that Graph Search is a perfect dating tool, not to mention its more sinister and less romantic motivations. Typing in "number of friends in the Wolverhampton area who are single and brunette" could be an innocent search for a night out, or a stalker’s shortcut.

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