How to protect your reputation with the new Facebook Graph

With the announcement of Facebook Graph Search this week, there was a great deal of talk over user privacy, but the greatest threat that Facebook Graph poses is the damage that the search tool could do to your online reputation.  Whether you use Facebook for personal or business purposes, or may simply be the parent of a teenager or college student, the most important thing on your task list today should be taking action to review your Facebook activity and protect your reputation.

What is Facebook Graph Search?

Originally started as a more enhanced search function to rival Google’s personalized search and image search functions, Graph Search has evolved into a highly advanced search tool designed to help users find other people with similar interests.  The idea is simply to allow people to better connect.  So how does Graph Search work?

Search is easy and unobtrusive. The bar sits hidden at the top of your Facebook page in a big, blue bar. When you are on your news feed page, the bar will say, “Search for people, places and things” in opaque text. When you’re on your page, or a friends page, the name of that person’s profile will appear in the blue bar. You’re still able to click it and immediately start typing your query.

When you start typing your questions, Facebook will suggest search queries and clean up your question. You might ask, “Which of my friends like The White House?” and it will simplify and suggest “My friends who like The White House.”

The search could be most useful for situations like finding friends in a specific city you plan on visiting or finding people who like a band you’ve got an extra ticket to see. You can also use it to search for things “nearby.” If you’re looking for friends who live near your current location, you can look for “friends nearby.” If you need a hospital, you should call 911, but you could also search on Facebook, and it shows you the hospitals in your area  (while you’re bleeding out, of course).

Venture beat has one of the best explanations I’ve seen at

So Why Should I Be Concerned?

From the start of their press conference, Facebook executives have repeatedly emphasized the fact that Graph Search in now way threatens to reduce user privacy, if you can’t find the user information on Facebook now, no one will be able to find it through Graph Search.  Although this statement is technically true, the reality is that a majority of Facebook users have information on interests, likes and other activity that may be hidden, but will still be available through Graph Search.  The end result is that your online reputation could be threatened by graph Search.

Privacy and settings are a tricky issue with regards to Facebook.  Most people believe that simply adjusting privacy settings is simply enough to protect unseen eyes from viewing their posts, likes, interests, photos, etc.  However, their is a second side to Facebook privacy, a side that is not controlled by a simple setting in the Facebook privacy settings: your activity.

For instance, let’s say that you were considering applying for a job at your companies primary competitor and in doing so you liked their business page or a photo they shared.  Out of fear that a colleague might view that activity, you selected the option of hiding that activity from your timeline.  So now it’s gone, right???  Wrong!  Although you may have chosen to hide the like from your timeline and when someone visits your profile they won’t see it; but,  that particular activity may still have an individual privacy setting of Public, Friends of Friends, or Friends only setting.  As a result, if a colleague used graph search to see what people were interested in their competitor, you would should up in the search results.  This example may not seem like a big deal, but now imagine if you had liked a humorous photo posted by a Facebook community page with a somewhat questionable reputation.

From Venture Beat: This is where people may start being surprised with search. For example, individually, your interests aren’t that bad. So, you liked a group called “Big Titties.” If that shows up on a news feed, maybe your friends will laugh and then move on with their days. But when it shows up — as Gizmodo realized— in a searchable list of “people who like Big Titties,” or Kinky Sex, or “Hating When Black People Say Things That You Can’t Understand!” and that gets publicized, your interest in large mammaries may deflate.

This Gizmodo article: These People Are Now Sharing Horrible Things About Themselves Thanks to Facebook Search pretty much sums it up.


So how do you protect your reputation (and more importantly that of your children) with the roll-out of Facebook Graph?

First, review your timeline and privacy settings…then, Review your entire Activity Feed. Read this article:

Do this now, before Facebook’s Graph Search embarrasses you from Venture Beat.

The article provides step-by-step directions for controlling information that may become available when Graph Search is release.


One Last Note: Protect Your Children on Social Media

Whether you are one my subscribers that participate in digital marketing activities on a daily basis, or someone just stopping by for a glance, always be aware and thoughtful in what you post online.  Although the information may not easily available, it may nonetheless still be available.  In other words, if you wouldn’t want your mother seeing it, don’t post it.

These words of advice and understanding privacy issues should be at the top of every professionals mind; but as much as we may work to protect our own information we have a greater responsibility to protect our children.  We’ve all done things that were less than becoming when we were younger, but today we live in a world where our children believe that they should share everything with little regard to long term consequences.  The last thing we want, as parents, is for our child to miss out on a job, opportunity or have their reputation destroyed by something they posted online or a page they liked.  So as you review your own activity feed, be sure to make your children read the linked articles and subsequently review their own activity feed and privacy settings.

After all, as a parent do you really want a potential employer or college recruiter seeing the below [gross] about your child (from Gizmodo)

Is this what you want a potential employer seeing?

Jarid Brown is the owner of HCM Brown, a digital marketing & consulting firm in Springfield, IL, and the Director of Online Interactions for The Hope Institute for Children and Families. Connect with Jarid Brown on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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