A new website is demonstrating how much information users unwittingly share on the social networking website about themselves.
Do you remember Facebook Graph Search? It was introduced by Facebook back in 2013 and it was pretty creepy. It acted as a kind of “advanced search” where users didn’t just search for the name of a person they were looking for, but they could enter search phrases like “friends who like pizza”, or perhaps more creepily “friends of friends who are single”.
Graph Search capitalised on all the public information in its large database to return relevant results. So while the tool was creepy, it didn’t really violate your privacy. Well, not really anyway, since anything you made private was still private. Graph Search scoured publicly available information. Sort of like those creepy ‘aggregator’ websites that accumulate personal information about you by using only public sources.
Facebook have since dialled back Graph Search since its introduction, deemphasising the ability to enter those search phrases. But it’s still there, in the background.
And one software developer has created a website that connects to Graph Search that has bought the controversial tool straight back into the forefront of the privacy world. Using Facebook Graph Search on Facebook itself had become tricky (available to only those few that knew how to use it) but the website StalkScan has created an easy user interface that allows anyone to perform advanced searches on any Facebook user they wish.
This includes finding photos of any Facebook user – regardless of whether you’re friends – that have the public setting applied. Finding any public comment by a particular user. Finding any single people that are friends of a particular user. Finding any public events that a particular user is planning on attending. Finding all the places a particular user has publically “checked in”. And that’s only a small example of the number of potential searches.
To reiterate, the information returned by StalkScan uses the public information returned by Facebook Graph Search. So all the results that are returned are publicly available on Facebook anyway. StalkScan just makes it easier for Facebook users to perform these searches and to go through the results.
It’s another reminder about being careful about those privacy settings and to make sure you regularly check what information about you is public. StalkScan – despite its name – wasn’t created to be a stalking site – it was created by Inti De Ceukelaire to make people aware of what information about them is lurking online, available to anyone. De Ceukelaire wrote…
With my actions and user-friendly tools I want to target the non-tech-savvy people because most of them don’t have a clue what they are sharing with the public.”
Using StalkScan on yourself isn’t particularly easy though, since you’re probably going to be logged in to your own account already and thus already able to see all your information. To see what strangers can see, you need to log in to a Facebook account that you’re not friends with and then use the website to perform searches related to your own account.
Remember, we have a guide to locking down your Facebook account here.