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Does Facebook's Graph Search Make You An Easy Target To Scammers?

Last week, Facebook announced its latest functionality: the Facebook Graph Search. As Facebook changes its look and functionalities often, you’ve probably asked yourself: “Ok, what is Facebook doing now?” In a nutshell, Facebook tries to follow in Google’s footsteps to create a built-in search engine that allows you to find things and… PEOPLE, more easily, based on relationship and context. Surely, all you Facebook groupies can’t wait to test it out, but cybercrooks can’t either. How’s that? Well, let’s dig a bit deeper, shall we?

Sure, all that data already exists, but does it really have to pop up so easily upon search?

The Facebook Graph Search makes search within Facebook more personally relevant to you, the user. You can search for people who live in a specific neighbourhood or people with the same hobbies as yours, restaurants, clubs, music etc., and the results that will come up will be generated by the Graph based on your friends’ profile info, likes, shares, comments, photo tags and check-ins. Noteworthy is that you can find information available only on Facebook and posted by people you’re friends with, just by writing in the search bar phrases like: “people who like cycling” or “restaurants my friends have been to.” Filters for refining searches will also be available.

More Facbook privacy issues and security threats

Clearly, for the regular ACTIVE user, this means improving their Facebook experience, serving up ideas for what to do in their spare time and so on. But what does it mean for online scammers, spammers and potential stalkers? This new feature makes it easier for them to gather data and launch more targeted attacks. They can narrow down specific targets and use details about their lives, friends, things they like and places they’ve been to, in order to write up customized phishing emails and messages, and make phone calls intended to con people. Just think of how easy it will be for scammers to look up groups of people with specific “likes”, such as tourist attractions and then spam them with vacation offers, some of which may contain links to phishing or otherwise unsafe sites. In a recent series of scams, criminals used Facebook to find out contact details and other sensitive data about grandparents and their grandchildren. Then they used that info to contact grandparents and lie to them about their grandchildren’s whereabouts to get money out of them. Just imagine how easy it will be for con artists to trick people, with such info easily available to them. On the same note, think of all the stalkers, internet trolls and cyberbullies getting a kick out of watching your every move or bullying you. Pretty disturbing isn’t it? And if you’ve got kids, surely you want to protect them from ill-intended people.

So, here you are: 5 privacy and security measures to take before Facebook rolls out their new toy

Facebook Graph Search is now open for beta testing to select users, but it’s due for official release this summer. So until then, here’s what you need to do to avoid imminent privacy and security breaches:
  • 1. Make sure your profile is Private so that only your friends can see it.
  • 2. Do not provide specific location information, your email or your phone number. Choose the friends you want to see your current location/city, or any other information in the About tab on your Timeline.
  • 3. Click on the lock icon on the top right of your profile and edit those privacy shortcuts settings to your convenience. More specifically, go to your Activity log, review all the photos you are tagged in and remove the tags you are not ok with, as well as all the location tags (check-ins) that you would not like to appear in search. Here’s Facebook’s instructions on revising these privacy settings.
  • 4. Say you have over 1000 friends – do you really know all of them? Have you ever met those people in person? If not, consider tweaking your Facebook friends list and leave out all those who seem suspicious.
  • 5. Install security software on your device to keep you safe from phishing scams, and parental controls on your kids' devices that help you keep an eye on them and protect them from scammers and stalkers.
So yes, from where we stand right now, Facebook Graph Search does make you an easy target to advertisers and scammers. What do you think? Share your opinion with us!

Written by Emma Ban

More articles by Emma Ban

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