Here’s the Deal with Facebook’s New Search Bar

The Facebook search bar is about to look a lot different, with the rollout of Graph Search starting this week.

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Facebook's Graph Search.

The Facebook search bar is about to look a lot different, with the rollout of Graph Search starting this week.

Graph Search allows you to look up information about your friends and other Facebook users in powerful new ways. Although Facebook announced the feature back in January, up until now it was only available in a limited preview. Over the next few weeks, Graph Search will roll out to all U.S. users.

A few examples of useful Graph Search queries:

  • Photos of my college friends
  • Restaurants in New York, New York that my friends like
  • People who went to my high school in 2000

You don’t even have to phrase your questions in any particular way. Just type what you’re looking for, and Graph Search will attempt to figure out what you meant based on the keywords in the search. (Not every query is guaranteed to yield results. When I searched for “photos from last weekend,” all I got was a list of all my own photos–including ones from a long time ago.)

The flip side to this powerful search tool is that it also lets people find information about you in ways you might not have considered. For example, a manager at your company could look through a list of coworkers’ photos for signs of debauchery, or a neighborhood gossip could search for nearby people who have declared an interest in guns, drugs or porn. On a creepier level, Gizmodo points out how you could use Graph Search to find single women in your area, and PBS notes how easy it is┬áto come up lists of people based on their religious and political affiliations, and where they tend to visit.

In fairness, Graph Search will respect your current privacy settings. If your photos and “Likes” are only visible to friends, they won’t show up in strangers’ searches. Facebook also has extra protections in place for teens: Certain things can’t be shared beyond friends of friends, and teens won’t appear in searches by age or location unless the searcher is a friend, or a friend of a friend between ages 13 and 17.

Still, as Graph Search becomes more widely available, now’s a good time to look over your privacy settings. If you need help, check out our guide to reviewing tagged photos, likes, places you’ve visited and other profile info.