Feb. 15, 2013 -- Facebook's Graph Search, which was released to a limited number of users in January, allows people to more easily search the social network. The feature makes it much easier to find out information about friends -- "Movies my friends like" -- and easier to find your friends or people on the service -- for example, "people who live in New York under the age of 25."
The feature, while very useful, does raise security and privacy issues, which we noted right after it was released. Facebook has said that the search tool follows the service's privacy settings, and today Facebook clarified that there are built-in privacy and security features to shield younger users specifically.
"As with all of our products, we designed Graph Search to take into account the unique needs of teens on Facebook," Facebook's safety team wrote in a blog post today. You must be 13 or older to use Facebook, according to the services Terms and Conditions, and says this applys to those between the ages of 13 and 17.
Facebook says teens will be protected based on current restrictions and settings for teens. Currently teens can only share information with "friends" or "friends of friends"; they cannot share it with the "public" setting, which goes out to anyone with a Facebook account.
Beyond that, Facebook has constructed Graph Search in a way that limits adults who are "friends of friends" to find a younger person.
"In addition, for certain searches that could help to identify a young person by age or by their location, results will only show to that person's Friends, or Friends of Friends who are also between the age of 13-17," Facebook explains.
We'll make that a bit easier for you to understand. Say 14-year-old Jessica is friends with 13-year-old Mary and both of them live in Los Angeles. Now say, Jessica is friends with John, a 30-year old man. If John searched "People under the age of 15 who live in Los Angeles" through Graph Search Mary wouldn't show up. Jessica would since he is friends with her.
The settings aim to prevent adults from easily finding younger people on the service. Facebook also restricted sex offenders from using the service. "You will not use Facebook if you are a convicted sex offender," Facebook states in its terms and conditions.
In today's blog post, Facebook also suggests some other safety tips for Graph Search. It suggests that you be aware of who you are sharing your photos, statues and other information with. Additionally, keep an eye on your Activity Log, which lets you see who you have shared your information with.
Facebook still hasn't said when it will begin rolling out Graph Search to a wider audience. Users can request the feature at www.facebook/graphsearch.