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Facebook has always seen itself as a competitor of Google in some nebulous way, but it's always lacked the key feature that makes us swarm to the ultra-popular search engine. Quite frankly, it's all but impossible to search through all the information you put into it. But with the widespread release of Facebook's Graph Search in the U.S. today, that's not so much the case anymore. And while that's good news for Zuckerberg and co., it also means you'll want to tighten your security privileges if you don't want people knowing too much about you.
The feature allows you to search through much of the information users have listed on their profiles (such as public photos, businesses, people, games, movies, or bands) and to narrow those searches by dates, location, or the information on a user's profile. For example, if you wanted to find photos taken in Chicago in 2010, you'd simply enter that as a search term in the Graph Search bar at the top of the page, and Facebook would give you a list of relevant results. On a more personal level, you could search for people over 30 who like fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin in Minneapolis, and it'd give you similar list.
That's great if you're the type who likes to find new friends on the Internet (and we're out there), but it's a potential nightmare if you've already found yourself sweating about Facebook privacy in the past. Thankfully, only the information you make public (or that which originates with your immediate friends) shows up in Graph Search, which means that keeping some dude from asking about your interest in Viking chess sets is merely a matter of adjusting your privacy settings. As CNN reported in Feburary, Facebook also has measures in place to keep minors safe with Graph Search, although--importantly--"the extra protections only kick in if minors are honest about the age they give to register for the site."
Facebook's Graph Search is currently available in most desktop browsers in the United States, although it's yet to make its way to Facebook's mobile app.
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.