Facebook search may not be so harmless after all

Search tool could reveal details some would rather keep hidden

A few weeks ago, I reported on Facebook's new search tool and concluded that for most individuals, it's probably not going to amount to much, but for organizations looking to find information about people on Facebook, it might be a gold mine of information.

An article on the website of The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that without too much trouble, you could find quite a bit of what many might consider personal information. For instance, the writer did a search of all Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) employees who like porn--turns out it's quite a long list.

While I couldn't care less if people like porn, you could see if this information is widely available through the search tool, it could be used in some instances to embarrass someone who might not be comfortable with the world knowing whatever predilections he might have.

You could say that perhaps you shouldn't be advertising such personal information on Facebook and you would probably be right, but these new search tools make it much more likely to surface information that might have otherwise remained hidden away in the bric-a-brac of Facebook.

And while porn is just one thing, it could provide a way to find out or perhaps even infer more intimate personal details about a person's life that they might have not shared explicitly online.

The fact that you can't opt out of this is particularly disturbing given the amount of information that can surface. And while it's unlikely that most individual users will ever understand or use the power of this search tool--which is only likely to get more powerful over time--it is entirely likely that journalists, marketers and data brokers could find lots of information we never thought they would.

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