Facebook is working hard to assure users that Graph Search, its new search engine designed to uncover all sorts of information buried within the site, does not compromise the privacy rights of minors.
“As with all of our products, we designed Graph Search to take into account the unique needs of teens on Facebook,” the site said Thursday in a blog post aiming to clarify how Graph Search displays search results of people between the age of 13-17.
To start, most of the things minors already do on Facebook, such as adding information to their timelines or sharing status updates, can at most only be shared with friends of friends, Facebook said. But with Graph Search, any information that could identify a young person by age or by location will only be shared with that person’s friends of friends if the search is done by someone between the age of 13-17, the company said.
Direct friends of minors can still see age or location information regardless of the searcher’s age.
As well as highlighting its child protection features, Facebook called on members to review their profile to ensure they are comfortable with what others could see via Graph Search. It said they could remove their name from photos they had been “tagged” in or change setting to limit who could view the “About Me” section of their profile.
At the launch of Graph Search in January, Mark Zuckerberg was at pains to emphasise that privacy had been a central consideration in its design. Members given early access to the system quickly found potentially troubling uses for the system, however.
For instance, London-based developer Tom Scott created a widely shared blog to highlight the potential embarrassment or danger of Graph Search queries including “married people who like prostitutes”, “family members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong [the banned sect]” and “Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran”.
Graph Search is currently only available in English. Facebook is slowly making it available to members who sign up to a waiting list.