SearchWhen Facebook announced their newest product, the Facebook Graph Search, it sounded like the social network giant had created their own ‘Google’ enriched with personal recommendations from users’ acquaintances, friends and family. It was a huge next step in leveraging the Big Data collected from over one billion users and a breakthrough in social and semantic search capability.

The Silicon Angle described it this way:

Graph Search, represents an intriguing marriage of Big Data and social networking that should allow people and businesses to connect in dozens of new and exciting ways.

Most people are not concerned or even aware of Internet giants like Google or Facebook collecting their personal data. They offer it willingly when registering for a give-away or a Facebook game application. Most people cannot even imagine how much companies profit from information as trivial as what you had for breakfast.

Few could comprehend the connections algorithms that process our data make out of the status updates and pictures posted. If they knew, it would most likely trigger a huge uproar.

The first concerns about data privacy were raised shortly after the launch of Graph Search. Facebook had to face a flood of negative user comments.

Some of us already had the honor of testing the new function; a sample of feedback from the first wave of users includes: “Addictive”, “brings out the urge to get insights from family and friends”, “a future as a second Linked”, “it has a lot of potential” and simply “creepy”.

You can join the waitlist to get notified when you are able to use it here.

Facebook unveiled its Graph Search as their third pillar, the other two being the News Feed and the Timeline. The company makes it look like it is a feature created for the user’s benefit and to make the whole Facebook experience cooler and hipper. However, hidden from the general public lies a vast amount of information users provide with their likes, status updates, photos and check-ins: Facebook’s Big Data.

While the search is currently in beta and only a fraction of the available data has been indexed, it will undoubtedly grow more powerful over time and the company’s ad sales figures will grow with it. It provides a new opportunity for advertisers, similar to the Google model, and is described as a notable development in the big data universe.

One reason it is notable for us is that it presents access to our own ‘personal Big Data’. Companies have leveraged huge amounts of data for a while but this is the first time the average Internet user like you and me gets access to its own little piece of big data: Our social media life with connections, favorite restaurants and vacation destinations that produces vast amounts of data.

Some Implications of this launch

  • It offers some advantages for users; for example, restaurant recommendations of trusted friends (see why we tend not to trust strangers) or when looking for like-minded people in the same city to play sports together
  • Brings Big Data to the average Internet user
  • Another attack on Google: Sources report that if the search function will be extended in the future it will be synced with Microsoft’s Bing
  • It raises privacy and data security issues

Like other product launches there are both negative and positive reactions. In order to maintain its market leadership Facebook had to come up with an innovation in location-based services which could also be linked to the flopped Facebook deals hopefully, giving it a second chance.

Actually seeing the vast amount of personal data Facebook has access to should make the consumer more aware of what kind of information they share on the Internet. Let’s see what comes of it once it has been rolled out globally.