Facebook launches Graph Search to all English-speaking users, acknowledges privacy concerns

The company directs users to its privacy tools at the same time as it expands the search tool

Facebook engineers demo graph search connections

Facebook engineers demo graph search connections

Facebook is rolling out Graph Search, its newfangled social search engine, to everyone who uses the U.S. English language, the company announced Wednesday.

Graph Search provides a way for users to search for various topics and interests across the site based on their existing connections and friends. Graph Search lets users submit their queries in plain English, so people can search for things like, "Friends who live in my city," or "Hotels in San Francisco visited by my friends," or even, "Music liked by people who like the music that I like," Facebook notes.

The company began rolling out the tool to a limited number of people in January. At an introductory press conference at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described Graph Search as an early stage feature that is still years away from being complete.

"Graph Search is a really big project, and it's going to take years and years to index the whole map of the graph," he said at the time.

Following Wednesday's expansion, people can continue to search for friends and Pages by name, Facebook said, or use simple phrases to find something specific across people, photos, places, interests and more.

Since its unveiling, Facebook has had to address tough questions over Graph Search's privacy implications. One major issue is the extent to which the tool makes it easier for people to unearth content or information about others who do not want that content to be seen.

Graph Search is designed to only let people see content that they could see before, and users can only search for content that has been shared with them.

Facebook in February, for instance, assured users that the tool does not compromise the privacy rights of minors. Any information that could identify a young person by age or by location will only be shared with that person's friends of friends if the searcher is between the ages of 13 and 17, the company said.

In its announcement Wednesday of Graph Search's expansion, Facebook reiterated that it introduced new privacy controls last December. Some of those tools were designed to make it easier for users to manage who can see their content or message them.

Facebook is working to further develop Graph Search such as by letting it search across posts, comments and mobile. As the company does that, "we encourage everyone to use your privacy shortcuts and Activity Log to review and adjust whom you have shared with, including status updates," Facebook said Wednesday.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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