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"Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran"
January 22, 2013 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Actual Facebook Graph Searches.
posted by spitefulcrow (70 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
They just fuck people over, again and again, don't they.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:19 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


No good will come of this, Zuckerberg.
posted by Bwithh at 8:19 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I clicked through sort of expecting this to be "ha ha, look at this amusingly contradictory thing", and it's more like Jesus Christ, this shit is going to get some people killed.
posted by brennen at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2013 [39 favorites]


yeah.

wow.
posted by rebent at 8:21 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just really hoping that this is the only thing I'll have to post about this and that there won't be a followup post about a spree of anti-gay/anti-abortion hate crimes and Facebook-enabled date rapes.

I really want to know whether they saw this coming at all.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:21 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this increased searchability is a ploy on Facebook's part to get users to un-like things they don't want to be associated with anymore. Which could increase the value of likes that remain, among advertisers who don't completely lose faith in the system.
posted by Phssthpok at 8:21 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder if this increased searchability is a ploy on Facebook's part to get users to un-like things they don't want to be associated with anymore. Which could increase the value of likes that remain, among advertisers who don't completely lose faith in the system.

I'm sure that was part of it. But some of these are pretty basic stuff about people and not even driven from things they liked on Facebook — the one about Iranian gay men is probably just about the most damning case here, but I can think of plenty of other examples.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:23 PM on January 22, 2013


I don't even really get this -- does Facebook Graph Search allow you to search the entire corpus of Facebook accounts, whether or not they have any connection to your network?
posted by escabeche at 8:26 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


spitfulcrow,

of course they saw this coming, the whole point is so advertisers can be charged to find teenagers with to much money in "insert next concert town" who like justin bieber.

This is just the by product to date mine more data...
posted by benk at 8:28 PM on January 22, 2013


The Iranian gay men example looks like bs.

All of them had tagged themselves as interested in both men and women. I guess there might be a large community of out-and-proud Tehran-dwelling Muslim bisexuals. But it seems more likely that they interpreted "interested in" as being platonic -- happy to have both male and female friends.
posted by dontjumplarry at 8:30 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Iranian gay men example looks like bs.

The Iranian morality police, who will harass women for merely talking to men, will probably find it more than sufficient justification to beat people up.
posted by GuyZero at 8:35 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Loads of people I know have tagged themselves as interested in men and women. They think of "interested in" as a marker for friendship not casual sex or dating. Many of them are happily married, and their respective spouses usually also have the same tags.

Also, wasn't this graph search supposed to be restricted to your social network, and take into account the privacy settings of others?

Can someone replicate these search results? Because I am calling them "fake" for now.
posted by vidur at 8:35 PM on January 22, 2013


The Iranian morality police, who will harass women for merely talking to men, will probably find it more than sufficient justification to beat people up.

Do they actually need a justification at all, given that they are police, judge and jury all-in-one?
posted by vidur at 8:36 PM on January 22, 2013


This is such a stupid and clumsy use of so much data. Facebook must really have no idea what to do with it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:37 PM on January 22, 2013


Also, wasn't this graph search supposed to be restricted to your social network, and take into account the privacy settings of others?

That seems to be a common complaint with facebook.

Also, a lot of people just have the "public" settings unintentionally. Facebook has caught flack over many of their policy changes by enabling stuff like that by default.
posted by lkc at 8:40 PM on January 22, 2013


Facebook has caught flack over many of their policy changes by enabling stuff like that by default.

Ah, yes. Sorry, I forgot all about that.
posted by vidur at 8:43 PM on January 22, 2013


At what point, however, do we start holding people responsible for the data they make public? It is too early now, I think, because social networks are still comparatively new to hundreds of millions of people, and companies are still preying on people's naivete and simplicity. But it won't be long before I think it's reasonable to say "You have been harangued for years and notified dozens of times by friends, news organizations, and the services themselves, that THIS is how you keep things private, and THIS is how you make them public." At some point we have to get there.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:45 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


At what point, however, do we start holding people responsible for the data they make public? It is too early now, I think, because social networks are still comparatively new to hundreds of millions of people, and companies are still preying on people's naivete and simplicity. But it won't be long before I think it's reasonable to say "You have been harangued for years and notified dozens of times by friends, news organizations, and the services themselves, that THIS is how you keep things private, and THIS is how you make them public." At some point we have to get there.

It's really tempting to engage in victim-blaming here. But Facebook has repeatedly failed to do the correct thing when introducing new features, by making the default privacy settings public. They have also moved or removed many of the finer-grained privacy settings — I remember at one time being able to control which groups of people could see individual attributes of my "about" section, and now it's just all-or-nothing on that whole chunk of info.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:54 PM on January 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


Jesus Christ, that's awful.
posted by empath at 9:05 PM on January 22, 2013


I was done with Facebook after the Beacon fiasco, where they'd automagically broadcast your purchases made on other websites out on your newsfeed without your consent. I never got burned by it, or really had any potential to be burned by it, but it was a freakin' huge red flag that they had gotten way, waaay too cavalier about datamining -- not just crunching people's Facebook data, but extending quiet taproots into their non-Facebook activity, all to be spread carelessly around in pursuit of profit.

It's inconvenient in some ways, but I feel good not having my personal information wrapped up in such an arrogant corporation -- especially one that's increasingly desperate to turn stronger profits.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:13 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


“People who like English Defence League and Curry”
Whether you like the EDL or not, this isn't a contradiction. They're neither anti-curry nor anti-people-who-introduced-or-make-curry-in-England. "Hindus who support the English Defence League" has over 1,800 likes on Facebook. I'm no supporter of the EDL, but I know their drive and appeal is not "hate all foreign stuff", but rather an analysis of Islam in western society. We don't stand a chance of tackling them unless we understand and counter that. Chuckling away at "hurf durf, racists like curry" isn't particularly useful or clever.
posted by Jehan at 9:14 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


All I know is I would be happy to find get my graph search enabled so I can do evil things with it learn about my friends and their worlds provide more marketing data for Zuckerberg, as he is, in fact, CEO, bitch.
posted by Samizdata at 9:29 PM on January 22, 2013


"Hindus who support the English Defence League" has over 1,800 likes on Facebook.

Ironic likes, I assume.

But there is at least one Sikh fellow in the UK who had joined the British National Front because.... reasons.

So, National Front: totally not racist anymore.
posted by Mezentian at 9:40 PM on January 22, 2013


This is such a stupid and clumsy use of so much data. Facebook must really have no idea what to do with it.

You've hit the nail on the head, there.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:41 PM on January 22, 2013


Ironic likes, I assume.
Go type the group's name into Facebook and read the comments on the group's page.
posted by Jehan at 10:01 PM on January 22, 2013


Facebook knows what it wants to do with the data.
If I may borrow from the underwear gnomes:
1. Collect Data
2. ?
3. Profit!

It's just suck on step 2.
posted by Mezentian at 10:02 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


My mistake. I assumed the EDL was an BNF offshoot, not specifically anti-Islamic.
posted by Mezentian at 10:06 PM on January 22, 2013


No good will come of this, Zuckerberg.

Yeah, I might get another few dates out of Facebook, and nobody wants me reproducing.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:38 PM on January 22, 2013


The Falun Gong one makes me sick to my stomach
posted by Joe Chip at 10:45 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, what? They don't limit your results to people you're already friends with?
posted by pwnguin at 12:34 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, this is good. Like I said in the last thread, most people have no idea about the power of data mining / machine learning. They don't realize even small data footprints can be combined to reveal new information. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Facebook's clumsy attempt at graph search will help educate the public on the important topics of information security and the real-world possibilities of data mining. And hopefully afterwards realize this is what the domestic surveillance debate is about.
posted by formless at 12:40 AM on January 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


I love this! Yet another reason I'm glad to have quit.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:50 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I came in here to say what formless said. Of course, with access to the raw data (as Facebook has) you can do far more powerful queries than what Graph Search lets you do, but it's a start for the education process. (Which I'm sure they don't want in the long term, but I'll chalk that up to a tonedeafness that I'm not young or Valley enough to grok...)

The power gradient created by a surveillance system is lessened somewhat when the watched can watch themselves, and in that I (counterintuitively) Like this...
posted by Vetinari at 1:08 AM on January 23, 2013


This post made me realize what the Facebook Graph Search actually is. I thought it was just some way to search your friends' posts or something. Turns out I was wrong.

So, thanks, I guess?
posted by ymgve at 2:40 AM on January 23, 2013


Wait, what? They don't limit your results to people you're already friends with?

They do. Or public profiles. But many people friend anyone who asks, not just their actual friends. Anyway, there may be connections that you don't want your friends to make.

What this does is erode the possibility of 'practical obscurity'. It used to be that if you posted something on Facebook, within a day or two, it would be so far down people's newsfeeds that it would never been seen again. That bad photo? People would only look at it for a day, and then it would be more or less forgotten. The bad memories could just fade away.

Then came Timeline. Suddenly, you could scroll through your friend's entire history - jump back years in moments! All that embarrassing, ancient history bubbles right up immediately. Forever. No more 'time heals all wounds'.

Now it's searchable too, with intuitive search terms so any idiot can do it. Just the next step in everything all the time.

It's really tempting to engage in victim-blaming here.

I'm not one to spring to Facebook's defence - they suck at privacy and stakeholder management - but seriously, what the fuck, people? If you don't want embarrassing or intimate or frankly dangerous information about you being disseminated, don't post it online. Everyone knows (or they should know by now) that Facebook can't be trusted. And even if they could, everyone else on the internet can't be trusted. It's not rocket science. There needs to be a bit of personal responsibility here - and I don't think it's victim blaming to say so.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:07 AM on January 23, 2013


I assumed the EDL was an BNF offshoot, not specifically anti-Islamic.

Oh, you're not wrong, it just hides its essential racism better.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:04 AM on January 23, 2013


What I like about this new feature is that the longer I'm not on Facebook the smarter I look.
posted by DU at 4:08 AM on January 23, 2013


> The Iranian gay men example looks like bs.

You didn't bother reading the FAQ, which is not only on the front page but has to be scrolled past to get to the "Islamic men..." screenshot.

"Q: Isn’t Facebook’s data so bad that it doesn’t matter?
A: In many cases, but not in all.[...] for the “Iranian men who like men” search, a lot of that may be mistranslation: it could be interpreted as the literal ‘interested in meeting’ rather than ‘would like to date’.
"

So I'd say the blogger is reasonably aware of what he's doing.
posted by ardgedee at 4:17 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Hindus who support the English Defence League" has over 1,800 likes on Facebook. I'm no supporter of the EDL, but I know their drive and appeal is not "hate all foreign stuff", but rather an analysis of Islam in western society

I think it has a lot more to do with the commonality some Hindus share with the EDL: A virulent hate of Muslims. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" and all that.
posted by ardgedee at 4:26 AM on January 23, 2013


“People who like English Defence League and Curry”
Whether you like the EDL or not, this isn't a contradiction. They're neither anti-curry nor anti-people-who-introduced-or-make-curry-in-England. "Hindus who support the English Defence League" has over 1,800 likes on Facebook.


That, or they like a good bargain for electronic products.

Seriously though, this shit is scary. I don't know how I'll do this, but time to optimize my Facebook profile further.
posted by the cydonian at 4:26 AM on January 23, 2013


Who the hell puts Prostitution or Racism as their Likes? I mean...WTF???
posted by Thorzdad at 5:41 AM on January 23, 2013


seriously, what the fuck, people? If you don't want embarrassing or intimate or frankly dangerous information about you being disseminated, don't post it online.

Although your point is definitely valid, I think the Falun Gong one is instructive on this. It's for family members of (people who live in China and like Falun Gong). A better search might have been "people who live in China and (have family members who like Falun Gong)".

While I'm the first to admit I don't know much about the Chinese crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners, I would not be surprised if cause enough for interrogation / danger is if you have family members who are practitioners. And this search finds those people, even though they didn't post anything online other than their familial relationships. My search finds them even if the family is somewhere safe, but they're not. They didn't post any unreasonable info at all.
posted by Lemurrhea at 6:15 AM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, this got me to change the settings for all of my "likes" to "only me." So thanks.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:43 AM on January 23, 2013


//Well, this got me to change the settings for all of my "likes" to "only me." So thanks.//

Yep - I just did the same thing. I'm also going to prune the hell out of my likes when I have a chance.
posted by COD at 7:27 AM on January 23, 2013


roomthreeseventeen: where? I looked everywhere for the setting for the Likes and can't find it?
posted by ish__ at 7:50 AM on January 23, 2013


ish___, I went to my About page first. Then, next to my name in the top left was a pulldown that says "about"... from there you can get to your likes.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:54 AM on January 23, 2013


I'm glad Facebook has launched this. It's fascinating data. Their entire business since day one has been about taking semi-private data and treating it semi-publically. They blur privacy lines all the time. And they keep abusing their users in all sorts of terrible ways, proactively changing the rules (like the Beacon fiasco). But it doesn't matter, there are still hundreds of millions of people using Facebook every day. Elite nerds like we Metafilter folk complain and wring our hands and have no impact; Facebook just lurches on.

Our society fundamentally doesn't understand how to treat privacy in the age of databases. From reverse phone books to gun permit maps to scraped lists of political donors, we are continuously astonished when semi-public data seems creepy and privacy invading when aggregated.

So now we have Graph Search, a whole new way of looking at semi-private data that is public and can be creepy. It's either going to fail fantastically or it's going to be something great and useful. I don't know which. But I'm glad to watch the experiment.
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


the whole point is so advertisers can be charged to find teenagers with to much money in "insert next concert town" who like justin bieber.

To be clear, advertisers can already do that. And basically do anything with that info, including dynamically tailor a website top-to-bottom for those teenagers and anyone else.

This is likely more about building engagement through new connections and, as Phssthpok touched on, to incentivize users to more accurately qualify themselves for advertisers. In theory, the increased accuracy would increase engagement percentages with ads, which is what advertisers and shareholders want from the company.
posted by pokermonk at 8:25 AM on January 23, 2013


Meanwhile, over at Hacker News, the usual creepy discussion is happening:

User A: "So all this tells me is that we should focus on improving sexual freedoms in Iran and religious freedoms in China. Hopefully the people with embarrassing views will take care of themselves as tools such as this subject them to increasing scrutiny."

User B: "And "Girls who are single and nearby and like getting drunk"... What noble redeeming value do you find in that search?"

User A: "Increasing the efficiency of people's sex lives?"

(I did not make this exchange up.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:54 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Islamic"?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:56 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rory that is the social setting at facebook incorporated which is exactly how and why shit like this happens and will continue to happen.
posted by bukvich at 9:12 AM on January 23, 2013


I'll admit to googling "Ashley Madison" to see what was up with "Spouses of married people who like Ashley Madison" before I read the caption. If you're happily married, Don't. Now I've got that in my search history; hope my wife is understanding and this Comment is proof of my motivation.

I'll second the "WTF is up with some peoples' likes e.g. Prostitution, Racism"
posted by achrise at 10:01 AM on January 23, 2013


I thought this feature was just slightly creepy until a friend remarked that this will be the first obvious feature of Facebook that will get people killed. After hearing that, it's kind of chilling that they're really releasing this.
posted by mathowie at 10:34 AM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this isn't the first Facebook feature to get people killed.
posted by Nelson at 10:40 AM on January 23, 2013


I assumed the EDL was an BNF offshoot, not specifically anti-Islamic.

Oh, you're not wrong, it just hides its essential racism better.


I think you might be mixing up the National Front and the British National Party? I doubt many EDL types even know the NF is still active.

The EDL isn't an offshoot of either group, anyway, and there is no love lost between them and the BNP, to the point that every time there's an event involving both groups you can guarantee a punch up. The same goes for relations between all these acronym-loving dickheads - if you managed to gather the NF, BNP, EDL, CxF and NWI memberships in one place at the same time, half of the British right would be wiped out.

In fact, in the profoundly depressing case of missing teenager Charlene Downes - the 'body in the kebab' murder, as the tabloids dubbed it - prominent EDL activists are currently attempting to focus attention on the girl's parents, both BNP members, instead of the two men tried and acquitted for her murder, both Muslim!

Of course, you're right that the majority of EDL are massive racists and bigots who have put more effort into window dressing than even the BNP - the EDL has official LGBT and Jewish Divisions! - but it's a mistake to place them in the context of the groups that have been forming, splitting and reforming since the NF was founded in 1967. The organisational structure of the EDL, its casual/hooligan firm origins, the genuine obsession with Islam over general hatred of non-whites, the group's stated (and real) aims all represent a genuine break from the 'traditional' far right.

How do I know all this? Facebook, of course. The EDL in particular are big fans of the service, seem largely confused by the privacy settings, and are constantly exposed by left wing activists setting up fake fascist profiles to befriend them.
posted by jack_mo at 11:10 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


HuffPost on Tom Scott's Facebook Graph Searches: Some Of The Greatest Facebook Graph Searches So Far.
posted by ericb at 11:34 AM on January 23, 2013


Facebook’s Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of Discovery: The Inside Story of Graph Search.
posted by ericb at 12:14 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who the hell puts Prostitution or Racism as their Likes? I mean...WTF???

People who confuse irony with wit.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:27 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]



Wait, what? They don't limit your results to people you're already friends with?

They do. Or public profiles. But many people friend anyone who asks, not just their actual friends. Anyway, there may be connections that you don't want your friends to make.

Actually, under "Extend your search", it looks like you can also search the profiles of friends of friends, not just the profiles of friends and public profiles. "Make my likes/profile data/posts visible to friends of friends" is one of the privacy settings that sits between "friends only" and "public". I think a lot of people overlook this setting, and have it on by default.

When I was on Facebook, my profile was mostly visible to friends of friends, with some sections friends-only, and some me-only. I had around 300 friends (a modest number compared to most people I knew). Each of those friends had around 300 friends as well. (usually more). Assuming that half of those friends of friends were people I wasn't already friends with (again, a generously low assessment), that's 45,000 people who had access to the majority of my profile.

I was OK with this because for a long time, friends of friends could only see my profile if they searched for me, specifically, or saw a comment I made on another friend's profile, or saw me in a list of friends on someone's profile. I actually wanted people to be able to follow those links back to my profile and maybe friend me or start a conversation because hey, new friends. They were only able to discover me through the profiles of people I already knew; I was cool with that. 45,000 people is a lot, but I could still construct an accurate mental model of the connections between strangers and myself.

But as Facebook adds new features, the "friends of friends" link becomes more tenuous and you don't know where the hell your profile information will show up. Last year, ads related to the liked pages of friends of friends started showing up in my newsfeed, but I don't recall Facebook showing information about the person whose "like" it was. Also as I recall, there was no setting for "stop showing me ads of likes of friends of friends". I could only control ads related to MY likes being shared by setting my likes to "friends-only", and I could only get rid of the ads by blocking them one at a time. However, with 45,000 people's like-related ad content coming down the newsfeed, that was sort of like putting my finger in a firehose.

I quit Facebook last year because I was annoyed by the ads and because I thought that the privacy settings were no longer in step with the product. I used to be able to imagine with some accuracy how my information would appear to other people on the site, but I stopped being able to do that. I literally don't have the brainpower to imagine who could see my profile on Graph Search and under what circumstances. Stuff on my profile I thought was innocuous could, under the shadow cast by a certain kind of query, appear really damning. (See all those folks who say they're interested in men and women and really are just looking for friends of any gender.)

I don't trust that a for-profit corporation can step into the big question-mark filled space created by the limitations of human comprehension and handle it responsibly. Especially not when Tom Stocky, co-leader of the Graph Search project, demonstrated Graph Search with the example of "single women who live near me". Fuck those guys.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 1:10 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm okay with this, but I figure I'm weird enough that the more I put myself out there publiclly online the more likely it is that people who are into or interested in me will find me.

And MySpace let you do this too - you could search for single women in your area. The big problem is the paralysis of choice - with 1800 friends and access to this data there are way too many people to keep track of, and messaging them seems both oddly intimate (since you see their Walls) and like shouting into the void.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:16 PM on January 23, 2013


Although your point is definitely valid, I think the Falun Gong one is instructive on this. It's for family members of (people who live in China and like Falun Gong). A better search might have been "people who live in China and (have family members who like Falun Gong)".

While I'm the first to admit I don't know much about the Chinese crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners, I would not be surprised if cause enough for interrogation / danger is if you have family members who are practitioners. And this search finds those people, even though they didn't post anything online other than their familial relationships. My search finds them even if the family is somewhere safe, but they're not. They didn't post any unreasonable info at all.


This is a very important point. As I said - there may be some connections that you don't want people to make.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:26 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are married men who like prostitutes really affirming that on Facebook? The Falun Gong one is much more troubling, as it works based on friends' or family members' professions, not yours.
posted by benbenson at 2:29 PM on January 23, 2013


Wait, what? They don't limit your results to people you're already friends with?

They do. Or public profiles. But many people friend anyone who asks, not just their actual friends. Anyway, there may be connections that you don't want your friends to make.

Actually, under "Extend your search", it looks like you can also search the profiles of friends of friends, not just the profiles of friends and public profiles.


To clarify, you may only search those profiles which you already have access to, whether it be friends, friends of friends, or public profiles. Graph Search doesn't give to access to anything you couldn't see before; it just makes it easier to search.

Best privacy practice is to set all your privacy settings to 'friends only', and only friend people that you trust with your info.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:31 PM on January 23, 2013


I want Facebook, Twitter et al to take all of their data, and instead of sharing it "selectively", just go balls-out and send every post and tweet from everyone on the service to everyone else on the service, except when each person on the service has expressly blocked that one person...and you can only block that person if you see one of their posts/tweets.

Just think of the firehose of insanely personal data that people would see! Mind you, it is the same insanely personal data that people are already over-sharing, but at least you'd know what was on going in.
posted by davejay at 3:04 PM on January 23, 2013


Are married men who like prostitutes really affirming that on Facebook?

Plausible --- not all married men are in monogamous relationships, prostitution isn't illegal everywhere (Germany, for example), and so on. I doubt there are many men who are _secretly_ seeing prostitutes AND who have explicitly put themselves as "Married To".

But honestly I bet a lot of those are "ironic" likes (or at least are explained as such).
posted by wildcrdj at 6:26 PM on January 23, 2013


One way some of these out-of-character Likes may have come about: Before the "Like" button and Pages, there were a lot of groups that functioned as the public page for an organization. To comment on the group's wall, you had to be a member of the group, so many opponents of the organization had to either let postings on the the group page go unchallenged, or join the group themselves to refute/argue with them. With the creation of pages, the organization had the option of superseding these groups, so if you had been a member of the group you now "Liked" the organization's official page. I have a vague recollection that pages worked this way for a while, too--you had to "Like" it before you could post to it, so some people may have liked something simply to be able to publicly denounce it on it's own page.
posted by yuwtze at 9:47 PM on January 23, 2013


used to be able to imagine with some accuracy how my information would appear to other people on the site, but I stopped being able to do that. I literally don't have the brainpower to imagine who could see my profile on Graph Search and under what circumstances. Stuff on my profile I thought was innocuous could, under the shadow cast by a certain kind of query, appear really damning.

I'm strongly tempted to highlight this whole comment and put it in "marquee" and "blink" tags.

I've read several articles, which I'm of course now having a tough time googling, talking about how some scientist theorize that one of the prime movers of human brain size was keeping track of social relationships, particularly calculating third and fourth level theory of mind stuff --- the levels being, "what I know" "what you know" "what you know I know" "what you know I know that you know" etc. That's part of the complex exchanges between characters in, say, a Jane Austen novel --- we enjoy keeping track of the differences and ironies between say Elizabeth's understanding of Darcy's intentions and Darcy's understanding of Elizabeth's.

But the complexity of and computational difficulties of keeping track of such info ramps up exponentially --- it's often made a joke of in farces. Beyond a certain point, it's impossible for us to keep track.

That's why I think the argument that "well, they put the info out there, it's their fault if it gets used against them" is wrong-headed. There's lots of info that I might be comfortable with my friends knowing that I might not be comfortable announcing to everyone I know. And the way facebook is set up, it's really hard for you to actually see and comprehend who has access to what until it bites you in the ass. To say that a tool such as this merely makes it easier to find what's already out there completely understates its revolutionary power. We aren't built to understand how these tools can be used against us.
posted by Diablevert at 3:12 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Interesting blog update, a bunch of text explaining the author's motivations and thoughts on reactions. Very thoughtful, worth reading.
Maybe people will get a bit more savvy as a result of this; most likely, they won’t. The people showing up here aren’t stupid: they just don’t have the knowledge required to be safe. If I took my car to a garage for a tune-up, a disreputable mechanic could fleece me for unwanted repairs and I’d never know it: that doesn’t make me stupid, it just means my knowledge is in other areas.

...

In a few months, Graph Search will have rolled out to everyone, and this’ll be normal. This site will just be an archive of how we reacted when Graph Search was released and, wow, didn’t we overreact back then?
posted by Nelson at 8:26 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


With new Facebook search, there’s nowhere to hide.
posted by ericb at 8:55 AM on January 24, 2013


Many privacy issues over the last 10-20 years seem to center around things that were already to some degree public, but making them more visible and more available than they already were. The argument is often made that "this was already public," with the implication that one therefore shouldn't object to it being made more public. (I have to confess I've made that argument a few times myself.)

Likewise, the law often uses a "reasonable expectation of privacy" standard, and in situations where one has no reasonable expectation of privacy, that often is taken to mean there can be no privacy violation.

But I'm coming to think more and more that this is the wrong way to view it—maybe privacy shouldn't be treated as a binary (something is either private or it isn't) but rather as a continuum, with varying degrees of privacy. If I'm in my front yard doing something visible from a public street, I have no "reasonable expectation of privacy." But it seems to me there's a difference between "a neighbor, or someone driving by, might see me" and "cameras are observing my yard 24/7, and computers are analyzing the video to see if I'm doing anything untoward."

Maybe it's time we start recognizing that taking something that was theoretically-public-but-difficult-to-find and making it more visible and easier to find can, in fact, have privacy implications.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:16 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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