Blogger Exploits Graph Search to Reveal Potential Privacy Flaws
When Facebook’s new search function Graph Search was released a couple of weeks ago, it raised some eyebrows among both privacy watchdog groups and casual users alike. The new tool lets users search based on tags, likes and posts that their friends have made, peeling away yet another layer of Facebook users’ online privacy and anonymity. However, people afraid of the search capabilities didn’t have any ammunition to prove its potential for malicious use. Well, that was until blogger Tom Scott started a Tumblr page of actual Facebook graph searches that reveal potentially harmful and embarrassing information about people.
Here are a few of the search combinations that Scott tried that bore results: “married people who like prostitutes,” “Islamic men interested in men who live in Iran,” and “spouses of married people who like ‘Ashley Madison’ [a website for people looking to cheat on their spouses].” All of that information could be potentially damaging to those users if it was ever found out, and even life-threatening in the case of homosexuals in Iran. On a large scale, oppressive governments such as Iran and China could use Graph Search to sniff out citizens who harbor preferences and tastes with which they don’t agree. On a much more personal level, anyone looking to get revenge on another Facebook user could find plenty of harmful ammunition via Graph Search.
As always, these cases illustrate the vital importance of checking your Facebook privacy settings and ensuring that things you don’t want to be found on the web can’t be found. Even if you don’t think you have anything damaging on your profile, lock down your privacy anyway—it can never hurt to be prepared.