With great amounts of data comes great responsibility. In this case, the responsibility to turn that data into a viral Tumblr.
Any time an online service collects massive quantities of personal info from its millions of users, customized results can get downright specific — often hilariously so. Facebook is no exception, so a Brit named Tom Scott (who is probably not a hoax) compiled results from Facebook’s new Graph Search and revealed just how big of a digital footprint we’re leaving.
Facebook Graph Search is like the Google of Facebook profiles: Enter simple phrases and keyword combinations about friends, photos, places or interests, and the Zuckerberg machine will aggregate the relevant results: friends from high school who have babies, movies your mom likes, photos your neighbors’ took on their trip to Hawaii — you name it, Facebook can probably get it.
On Actual Facebook Graph Searches, Scott posts pixelated screengrabs of results ranging from the ironic — people who like conservative group Focus on the Family and openly gay actor Neil Patrick Harris — to the unfortunate (the spouses of people who like prostitutes). If that sounds slightly stalker-ish, it’s probably because Facebook Graph Search pretty much dares us to take search results one step past where we should probably have stopped. Why just look up which of your friends like racism when you can look up the companies that employ people who like racism?
New York magazine is quick to point out that, no, you won’t find very many actual racists on Graph Search; mostly these profiles belong to prank victims or users with a strange sense of humor — if liking things “ironically” hasn’t lost its appeal yet, it should now. But other Graph Search results are more troubling: Scott posted results for Islamic men interested in other men living in Tehran, Iran, a country not known for its recognition of LGBT rights. One of the questions on the blog’s FAQ section asks if the site is giving some not-so-friendly governments a repressive idea or two (not a new criticism about Graph Search), but Scott replies that anything he’s posted has already probably been thought of by authorities.
Facebook Graph Search isn’t available to all users yet, so while you can sign up for the waiting list, you may just be better off using the time to change your privacy settings. Still, as Scott points out on the blog, the real danger is less about what you allow others to see about you and more about what you put on Facebook in the first place. When in doubt, follow what Scott calls the “bitter ex” test — don’t post anything that a scorned former lover might use to ruin your life.