Speaking before several dozen members of the media at his company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized that Graph Search had been built with privacy in mind.
"The search we wanted to build is privacy-aware," he said. "...You can only search for content that has been shared with you."
Zuckerberg described Graph Search as "a completely new way for people to get information on Facebook" and said it represented one of Facebook's three pillars, the other two being Timeline and News Feed.
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For example, the Graph Search, "friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter," would return a list of friends who have "liked" each of those movies (among other search signals) in a context that has not been hidden through Facebook's privacy controls.
Graph Search might improve privacy for Facebook users because it brings new privacy tools to help people understand who can view the content they've shared and to restrict access to that content. For example, Facebook is providing a way to untag photos in which you have been tagged, along with a way to contact people who have tagged you in their photos to request a photo's removal.
At the same time, the availability of Graph Search could make privacy more of a liability. It might encourage Facebook users to share more information about themselves and their affinities, in order to make social search more useful for their friends and for themselves. Being invisible on Facebook could impose an opportunity cost.
For example, Tom Stocky, director of product management at Facebook, suggested that Graph Search could be useful for recruiting. He demonstrated how the service could be used to find connections who had been both product managers and startup founders, on the belief that those who found companies have a talent for product management.
If recruiting through Facebook becomes popular, as it is on social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook users might feel pressure to disclose more information about their accomplishments and past employment in order to increase their visibility to those who might be hiring.
Graph Search is being rolled out gradually, and is being offered in what Zuckerberg characterized as a "limited beta." Facebook users who visit facebook.com/graphsearch will be presented with the option to join a waiting list to try the service.