Our View: Facebook or ‘Big Brother’

DKS Editors

Facebook’s new technology, “Graph Search,” will allow users to search for people in more ways than ever before — and we think that’s just a little creepy.

When you currently search for someone on Facebook, you either need to know that person’s full name or email address — or be a master creeper. But starting Tuesday, Facebook upgraded to a search tool called Graph Search, which will allow its users to search for one another using a more sophisticated system of questions.

Remember that girl Hannah from your freshman psychology class who told you she loved the movie “Juno”? Chances are, with this new technology, you could find her. The searches are conducted using natural language, which means you could type a phrase like “people who went to Chipotle yesterday who go to Kent State,” and based on four main areas of search — people, photos, places and interests — Facebook would give you results.

Graph Search is currently in the beta testing stage, though Facebook users can request to be put on a waitlist, and there is no timeline for when it will be fully launched.

When asked about potential privacy issues with the new search software, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the search would only return content normally viewable by people who would search for you.

But even with this privacy assurance, we can’t help but feel like Facebook is becoming a little too much like “Big Brother” and not enough like the site it was intended to be, which is a site to connect you with people you actually know — and to post pictures of grumpy cat, of course.

And while, as journalists, we’re all about search optimization, there is a difference between finding relevant information and being just plain creepy. For instance, this new technology might allow someone charged with a criminal offense to find and harass his accuser on Facebook. What might seem like innocent searching could turn into something a lot more dangerous.

While we assume most people won’t use the search for bad intentions, we’re not naïve enough to think it could never happen, and Facebook shouldn’t be either.