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Facebook gets ahead of Graph Search privacy panic by educating users

Facebook Graph Search screenshot
Graph Search will let you find people, as well as places and things, but you may not want to be among those people who are found.Facebook

Facebook's new search feature, still being rolled out to users, promises to be pretty nifty if you want to find friends who, say, moved to another city or use a certain doctor. But if you don't want to be found — and pestered —  the social network wants you to know there are steps you can take to remove your information from its new Graph Search.

Privacy advocates are understandably concerned about Graph Search because, like other personal information you can't hide on Facebook, this is another feature you cannot opt out of; you can only change your settings to try to minimize what others find out about you.

"Ultimately, Graph Search will make everything you share with the public and with friends a whole lot easier for people to find," notes security software maker Kaspersky, on its blog. (For a funny — but scary — look at how Graph Search can be used, see Tom Scott's Tumblr blog; hat tip to NPR's On The Media.) 

On Facebook, users can find a handy Q-and-A about Graph Search and a helpful video, shared below as well, about changing privacy settings. 

Facebook wants users to believe it takes their privacy seriously, especially after a settlement last summer of federal charges that Facebook deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they had intended. As part of the settlement, the Federal Trade Commission requires Facebook to get user consent for some changes to privacy settings. Facebook is also subject to 20 years of independent audits about privacy.

Michael Richter, Facebook privacy officer for product, writes on the Q-and-A page that "privacy works consistently across Facebook, not just on Graph Search. When you control who you share your information with, you determine who it's shared with across Facebook — including News Feed, timeline and in Graph Search."

There are also two other Graph Search info pages that are very useful, one on How Privacy Works with Graph Search and another, Graph Search Privacy. Bookmark those pages, because you'll want to refer to them often once Graph Search is completely rolled out.

In a related move this week, Facebook said its Chief Privacy Officer of policy, Erin Egan, now has an "Ask the CPO" feature on the site's "Facebook and Privacy" page, where you can ask Egan questions. Not all will be answered, but Facebook says, "Each month, Erin will respond to some of your questions."

Here's Facebook's video that walks you through the steps you can take to help ensure privacy when it comes to Graph Search:

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