Facebook Graph Search: Stalking Made Easy?

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
article imagearticle image

Released on Monday, Facebook Graph Search makes it easier for personal details to be publically searched — revolutionizing the way advertisers and even stalkers find their targets.

Graph Search allows a detailed and reliable search with precise results. You can search anything from “single women who read Harry Potter and live in Memphis, Tennessee” to "men who went to Middlebury College and listen to Linkin Park.”

Before its release, Andrew Leonard of Salon called Graph Search “one of the most powerful tools for stalking yet invented.” After playing around with search parameters, he wrote, “I don’t see anything to undermine my initial speculations.”

"Graph Search makes it possible for Facebook to produce an ad category that's unique to Facebook," said Max Wolff, chief economist and senior analyst at Greencrest Capital, to CNBC. "That more or less makes good on the ad pitch from Facebook, which is that it allows advertisers to have a targeted entry into social interaction."

Advertisers can zoom in on a target audience, Wolf added, "these folks are seriously interested — there's an intentionality there. For an advertiser, that's a really big deal. It jacks up your ability to close. That's the promise of the social web."

"Graph Search could be the stalker's utility of the millennium," Wolff admitted. It allows many hidden details to now be publicly searchable, "so the risk is that people start getting reached out to, and if some nontrivial portion of higher-income consumers jack up their privacy settings, Graph Search goes from good idea to big problem lickety-split."

Andrew Leonard called Graph Search addictive.

“Holy moly! There are more Limbaugh fans in my extended network than porn film fans! Something is very wrong here,” he wrote.

London-based prankster Tom Scott used the search tool to look up more provocative examples, such as “single women who live nearby and who are interested in men and like getting drunk!”

"About half of Facebook users are voyeurs and half are exhibitionists," said Michael Pachter, an analyst who covers Facebook for Wedbush Securities, told "Facebook knows a lot about the exhibitionists, because they tell the world everything, but very little about the voyeurs, because we just watch. Graph Search gives Facebook an opportunity to see what we're interested in."

Sources: Salon, CNBC