Pando

Graph Search is finally coming to mobile, making it even easier for users to know what Facebook knows

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 8, 2014

From The News Desk

Facebook has updated its Graph Search tool to allow users to search through their friends' status updates in addition to their image uploads, likes, and other profile information. The updated search function is available to Facebook's desktop users now, and the Verge reports that it will be coming to the company's iOS application in a few weeks, with Android coming later.

It's about time. Facebook has promised that Graph Search will be coming to mobile since February, when chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company was testing a mobile version of the service. (So much for Facebook being a mobile-first company, as Pando alumnus Richard Nieva noted in a post when Graph Search was first revealed way back in January 2013.)

Because most of the company's users access Facebook via their smartphones, the expansion of Graph Search to Facebook's mobile applications should raise awareness of it -- and that has the potential to be a boon for everyone.

As I explained in July 2013, Graph Search is the closest most consumers will come to knowing how much information Facebook and other companies have about their users and how all that data can be used by everyone from advertisers to intelligence agencies. And the more the service expands, like with this new ability to search through status updates, the more true that becomes.

An apt metaphor is the lobster that doesn't realize it's being boiled alive if the pot is heated slowly enough. (Which isn't to say you should boil lobsters -- there's been some debate as to whether or not they can actually feel pain. But the metaphor still works.) So much data is offered to Facebook over so long a period that it's hard to realize how much it has.

Graph Search is like sticking a thermometer into that pot. Some might still choose to ignore the indicator describing the increasing amount of heat -- or in Facebook's case, data -- in the giant metaphorical pot commonly called a data center. At least now, ignorance is now a choice instead of a default.

Now that it's available on smartphones, Graph Search will probably prove useful to even more Facebook users than it has over the last year-and-a-half, when it debuted on Facebook's website. As I reiterated when Bloomberg reported that the tool would expand to mobile devices with this status-searching ability in August, that should worry Facebook users as much as it excites them.

The question now is whether Facebook's users can connect the dots between the information Graph Search reveals or if they'll just use the tool to embarrass their friends without thinking about it. Either way, at least it's easier for people to know some of what Facebook knows about them.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]