Facebook Graph Search Privacy Concerns – Be Careful What You Like

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Did you know that Facebook recycles your “likes” to promote stories without your knowledge? We’re talking about articles that you may never have seen before and certainly stories that you may not want to be associated with. How is this happening? It’s all thanks to Facebook’s new Graph Search feature.

Craig Condon on Facebook’s Misleading “Related Stories”:

If you were concerned about your privacy on Facebook before, thanks to the new graph search feature, you have even more to be concerned with now. Watch this video to see what most  Facebook users don’t know:

Recap of Craig Condon’s Video:

For those of you who like recaps, the bullet points from Craig Condon’s video are:

  • This is a privacy issue that most people aren’t aware of.
  • Facebook is basically recycling “likes”.
  • Recycled likes do not show up in your feed but your friends will see them. (Therefore, you may not know that other people think you have actually liked something unless someone else informs you.)
  • Facebook is associating articles that are “related” to articles that you have liked (on your behalf and without your knowledge).

My Take-Aways from the Article:

First, I encourage anyone reading this article to take the time to watch Craig’s video. (It’s less than 4 minutes long.) Then, decide for yourself whether you think it’s worthy of sharing. (I think you will.) During Craig’s research. he actually created a fake Facebook account with the sole purpose of investigating this issue.

Interestingly enough, although Craig never posted anything (when logged into his fake account), he did “like” brands and that’s when it started appearing (to the people who friended his fake account) that he liked all sorts of posts (without Craig’s knowledge).  Technically, Facebook labels these new “likes” as being “related” to his actual likes. The problem is that most FB users will ultimately assume that it’s an actual like. (Craig Condon’s mother urged him to delete one of his “likes”. However, he couldn’t delete it because he never actually posted it.)

As I read the article, I also learned that:

  • Related posts are an undocumented feature in Facebook.
  • Facebook also adds likes if you message someone with a link to a “likable” page.
  • Even if your message with the link to the “likable” page includes a negative comment, it still counts as a FB like.

Over to You:

Craig Condon suggests that “The only way to prevent re-posted content is to unlike everything.” What do you think? Is this enough for you to delete your Facebook account?

Note: Thanks to Anthony Wing Kosner, @akosner, the author of the article that inspired my post and thanks to Francisco DiTesco for sharing this story on his Google+ page, (which is how I found it).

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Author: Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

52 thoughts on “Facebook Graph Search Privacy Concerns – Be Careful What You Like”

  1. Hello Sherryl,

    You are right and Facebook has changed a lot in past years. Especially when the graph search was launched on it, it is affecting badly. Earlier I was addicted to Facebook, but now I don’t want to use it anymore nowadays.

    The information is being shared in a wrong way without the permission and who would like to use Facebook in this manner. If it remains so, the time will change for Facebook, I guess; as there are many other social networking sites which may be better for users.

    Thanks for sharing this article 🙂

    1. Ganesh,
      Thanks for adding to the conversation. I still continue to stay active on Facebook but I’m certainly not “liking” as much as I once did. There are a number of people who I’m connected with on Facebook who aren’t active on any other social networking site. So, FB has a strong foothold that’s for sure.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Friday Finds: Gmail Privacy, Facebook Likes and SEOMy Profile

  2. Hi Sherryl,

    Thanks for sharing this.

    At first, I noticed this but thought it was just a ‘promo’ thingy. Even my fiancee and sis said so.

    After reading what you got to say, damn this is going to make me think twice on ‘liking’ other pages. Crazy I would say! 🙂

    *p/s I think there’s an issue with commentLuv plugin on your site (maybe?). Clicking on the share button will open the same page and not a new tab <– Just saying!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Reginald recently posted..WPEngine Review – The Best Managed WordPress HostingMy Profile

    1. Hi Reginald,
      Thanks for letting me know that you found this post helpful. I think it came as a surprise to many of us that Facebook had done this. They really don’t show much respect for our privacy!

      Thanks for letting me know about the issue on my site but I couldn’t replicate it. Is this happening to you when you click on one of the share buttons at the top of the screen? I tested it in both Chrome and Firefox and it’s opening new windows for me.

  3. I didn’t know about this. This is really alarming. As much as possible, I still want to keep some privacy even in my social networking accounts.

  4. Hi Sherryl,

    Did you ever get my comment here? It’s prolly on spam folder. I did post this matter back on February 4, 2013…and I’m glad you posted this coz finally people are started to realize how Facebook are going overboard with our privacy. Anyway, have a good day!

    Angela McCall recently posted..Make A Killing On KindleMy Profile

  5. Hi Sherryl,

    Found you here from Adrienne’s blog. Guess 6 months ago, I posted about “Facebook Creating Fake Likes” here: http://angelamccall.com/facebook-creating-fake-likes

    …BUT not too many people responded on me on this. I wanted to leave Facebook because of this and switch to Google+ all the way, but I couldn’t coz all of my family & long time friends are on Facebook. It’ll be hard for them to switch over…and so I remained there for that reason. But I am aware about Facebook’s deceptiveness.

    Kinda sad. But some people will do this for the sake of money and greed. Even if it hurts their reputation and morality.

    Angela McCall recently posted..Make A Killing On KindleMy Profile

    1. Angela,
      I finally unearthed this comment in my trash. I have no idea how it got there and it wasn’t the only legitimate comment that ended up there. (I owe you and several others an apology.)

      I just read your post (from early February) and I’m surprised that it hadn’t hit my “radar screen” before this.

      Thanks for letting me know that you found me on Adrienne’s blog. After I leave you a comment, I’ll connect with you online – including Google+ and Facebook. I feel the same way as you about having to maintain a presence on FB. There are too many people who only use that network. So, we just need to be diligent about protecting our privacy as much as we can and alerting others to the risks.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Friday Finds: Gmail Privacy, Facebook Likes and SEOMy Profile

  6. Well well well!!! Looks like Facebook is at it again. And they wonder why they get a bad rap.

    What I find deceiving about this whole thing is that I don’t get to see what they “think” is related to something I liked. That’s what is deceiving to me so that makes the privacy issue continue to stay in the forefront. They are bordering on pissing people off so if they truly think this is helping then they will be in for a rude awakening.

    I think what I’ll start doing from this moment forward is reply to a post but stop liking them. If that hurts me down the road then so be it. You’re not going to hurt my feelings because Facebook wants to be deceiving. We’ll just start taking ourselves someplace else. It’s starting to happen for me anyway.

    Thanks for sharing this Sherryl and I don’t like this at all.

    Adrienne recently posted..The Proof Is In The Community You BuildMy Profile

    1. Adrienne,
      I’ve been continuing to like blog posts but you have me thinking that I should probably stop too. I’ve been so careful to not like certain cartoons and photos simply because not everything posted by those accounts fit the image that I’m trying to project on Facebook.

      What I really need to do is logon to FB with another account (like my husband’s) and take a good look at what related posts are showing up for me. Then again, is that the best use of my time? What I should do is what I’ve been planning to do for months and that is to spend more time on Google+.

      Thanks for weighing in on this. A lot of people feel the same way about FB as you and I do.

  7. Hi Sherryl

    Wow this is terrible but why would they do this? It does not make sense to me. I cannot think of any advantage to them. As Sue Neal said it is bordering on libel if it is intentional.

    It is not enough for me to close my FB profile and page though. I am addicted to FB I must confess. I love it for many reasons but I am not happy with them doing this.

    Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    Sue Price recently posted..Is Integrity Important?My Profile

    1. Hi Sue,

      Susan Oakes mentioned Facebook artificially boosting engagement. That could very well be part of what’s going on. I don’t know for sure but I suspect that these inflated “related” pseudo-likes are influencing brands to advertise with them by generating more likes from “friends” of the unsuspecting person who was associated with their brand.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Friday Finds: Focus on Customers, Facebook Tips and Website Load TimesMy Profile

  8. Sherryl, Why would Facebook think they know what their users like or don’t like??? Facebook is beginning to become much less effective than other social media sites. I try to get my clients to focus on Google, Triberr, Linked In, etc. I see a better reach from those avenues.
    Elizabeth Scott recently posted..Effective Blog CommentingMy Profile

    1. I agree with you Elizabeth. Part of the reason that I am active on Facebook is to keep in touch with people who don’t participate on other social sites. There’s also a core group of bloggers there who I’ve been connected with on FB for years. There is getting to be way too much clutter there. Then, when I discover things like this, it makes me be even more mindful of what I do there.

  9. Hi sherryl,

    I agree that this is a grey area of FB privacy, except that in the video, by liking the Vice page as Johnny Wanny, he is being used as an example of someone who Likes the page, and then they show a sponsored story from that page below it, even if they didn’t like that particular post. They’re not saying that Johnny Wanny liked the 2 Girls One Cup video, but rather the page (Vice) that posted the video. Am I correct here?

    1. Adam,
      Yes. By posting it under the words “Related Post”, they’re not actually saying that Jonny liked it. However, how many people read the entire screen? Most people scan and in doing that, it certainly appears that the 2 Girls video is associated with Jonny. It seems deceptive to me.

      This reminds me of when I was young and my parents wouldn’t let me hang around with a certain crowd. They used to call it “guilt by association”. I think this practice has similar implications.

  10. Wow, now this is definitely NOT cool of Facebook.

    I mean, how in the world could you just “assume” that someone “likes” something that “related” to something else. AND, who is Facebook to say what’s related to your “likes” and what isn’t.

    This is exactly why I’ve not been active on Facebook for a while. You don’t have any control over it or what they do with the data from your account. Plus, I just feel that FB has become way too noisy and cluttered for my taste. I’m more of a Twitter gal. And I actually prefer Google+ over FB, not just because they’ve not incorporated ads…yet. But because they seem to be more in tune with their users and what they need and want. Although, I didn’t initially like Google+’s platform, but it has quickly grown on me.

    I don’t think this will actually make me want to delete my Facebook page, but it’ll remain a ghost town until I figure out what I want to do with it.

    Great write up, Susan. It’s been a while since I’ve dropped by your site and I’m glad to see that your content is still as valuable as ever. I’ll be sure to share this with my social circle.

    Keep the great content coming and I look forward to connecting more with you soon.

    Ti Roberts recently posted..Why Traffic Does NOT Equate to Money (My Response to Ana Hoffman)My Profile

    1. Hi Ti,
      Thanks for dropping by. I’m not really as active on Facebook as I am on other sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. I think it’s important to keep a presence on as many of the major social sites as I can but I agree that FB is very cluttered and I find it difficult to manage.

      Google+ is growing on me too. I find it easier to have real conversations and connect with others there.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..How Do You Know Which Bad Links Caused Your Google Penalty?My Profile

  11. Hello Sherryl,
    You know one thing i know about life, No matter how tall you’re, someday you will fall if you don’t do what the people like.

    Facebook has been bridging their users privacy for long. So i would say that facebook is not a place to do closed business, rather, Facebook is a place to go get your customers and nothing more…

    Nice article and also a nice video. Do have a joyful week and a blessed weekend… 🙂
    Babanature recently posted..Top Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Traffic From RedditMy Profile

    1. Thanks for weighing in on this Babanature. Facebook does have a history of disregarding their users’ privacy.

      You have a wonderful week and weekend also.

    1. I think it’s going to make people who are aware of this more conscious of what they share and like but how many people know this is going on?

  12. Sherryl,
    I guess Facebook does not have the same copyright laws that applies to when you copy someone’s website. To tell you the truth Facebook is the one social media that I have always been concerned about. I do not have a personal facebook account, just one for business. I guess this really isn’t too much different from Google. If you have a gmail account and you write something in an email you will notice that there will be advertisements on the subject you just wrote about. Who knows that else is going on that we are not aware of. I don’t like this at all. Thank you for sharing the information.

    1. It will be interesting to see if this is challenged by anyone in the courts. There are a couple of people here who don’t think there’s anything wrong with this but it’s misleading at best.

      Susan Oakes raised an interesting point about FB artificially boosting engagement. At some point, I’d be interested in learning more about how FB is making money and if these inflated “related” pseudo-likes are influencing brands to advertise with them.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Friday Finds: Focus on Customers, Facebook Tips and Website Load TimesMy Profile

    1. Hi Jayme,

      Thanks for dropping by! I also wonder how many of the likes are promotional. There just seems to be a big increase in the number of shares and likes that I’m seeing. Honestly, I don’t spend as much time on Facebook as other sites. I try to manage it with lists but I know I’m missing a lot because of all of the clutter.

  13. Sherryl,

    I have actually seen really strange things on my newsfeed that make me wonder “Lisa likes THAT?” or “There is no way Cindy would like THAT page or story” because I know my friends and their morals, there would be no way she would agree to being associated with a certain page or product.

    I wonder how many times I am associated with something I would never even back or know exists.

    This just makes me wonder what else is FB (social media) up to that we are not aware of.

    Thanks for this post.

    Allie recently posted..What Do WAHMs Really Need? Finding Solutions to DilemmasMy Profile

    1. You’re welcome Allie. Thanks for taking the time to let us know that you’ve been noticing strange likes too. This has been going on for months and it’s just now coming to light for most of us. The fact that FB implemented this and has kept it quiet for so long is disturbing. It does make me wonder what else is going on not only with FB but the other social media sites as well.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..How Do You Know Which Bad Links Caused Your Google Penalty?My Profile

    1. Prajith,
      Heather Fonseca raised the same question. I’m not sure exactly when this feature was launched. Facebook hasn’t documented it and I only discovered this recently. I do know that Craig uploaded his video to YouTube in January of this year and he had taken the time to research it prior to that.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Top 10 of the Most Interesting New TechnologiesMy Profile

  14. Hi Sherryl,

    Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. It makes my blood boil – I think it’s verging on libel, because FB are basically putting it about that you’ve ‘liked’ something you’ve never even seen. It’s totally outrageous. I think this goes beyond unethical and immoral – I might be wrong, but I reckon it’s probably unlawful. And if it’s not, it should be! It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to close down all my social media accounts – I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that there’s no such thing as ‘privacy’ any more, but this is more than an invasion of privacy – it’s attributing fictional preferences to you and advertising them without your knowledge or consent. I entirely agree with you – this is one giant leap too far. They’ve crossed a line here.

    I’ll be sharing this, for sure.

    Susan Neal recently posted..Is Your Blog Post Long Enough?My Profile

    1. Thanks for the feedback Susan. I couldn’t believe it when I read this article a couple of days ago. (I immediately knew it would be my next post.) The fact that this feature is undocumented is telling.

      I feel the same way as you do about there not being any such thing as privacy online anymore and I act accordingly. However, I’m sure that this abusive behavior has happened to most (if not all) of us. Out of curiosity, I should switch over to my husband’s FB account and see what sort of things it looks like I have “liked”.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..How Do You Know Which Bad Links Caused Your Google Penalty?My Profile

  15. What I only see to this from my own perspective is that, Facebook only take charge over their business and make use of their users advantage

  16. The question I have is what is the point of Facebook doing this? The only thing I can think of is that perhaps people are not liking enough so FB is artificially boosting the engagement. What do you think Sherryl?

    I do agree with you about this being wrong and could damage reputations. It is also sneaky that you don’t know it is happening.
    Susan Oakes recently posted..Do Your Marketing Strategies Have The Right Support?My Profile

    1. Susan,
      I think you may be right about FB artificially boosting engagement. I’ve done a little more research and this seems to be tied to brands. So, these likes are unfairly being attributed to the brand. I don’t really understand how FB’s advertising works but it appears to me that it must be inflating the value of FB to their advertisers.

  17. I know it’s not something that a person who works online should say – but I’m getting tired with playing this hide-and-seek game with Facebook and their privacy settings.Thank you so much for pointing this one to us.

    1. I won’t be deleting my Facebook account either but I am going to be mindful of this when I’m sharing. There’s at least one FB account that I’m always seeing really funny posts from but since their FB page name contains a word that a lot of people find vulgar, I have never shared from them. I do wonder now if I ever liked one of their posts. Now that I know what’s going on, I’ll be more careful.

      As for how long has FB been doing this, Craig uploaded his video to YouTube in January of this year and he had taken the time to research it prior to that.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..5 Basic Tips for WordPress Bloggers and Website OwnersMy Profile

      1. Last year a friend of mine on Facebook published a long status update on how she had decided to unfriend a friend because they had “liked” a site that was against gay marriage. Now I’m wondering if this person actually “liked” it. What if they didn’t and everyone thinks they did? I do think we’re all going to have to be VERY careful with Facebook in the future.
        Heather Fonseca recently posted..Sunblock for the Beach – My Favorites from the DrugstoreMy Profile

        1. Thanks for sharing this with us Heather. That could have very well happened! There are huge implications to this. It’s possible that this could irreparably damage relationships and it also could jeopardize employment opportunities and who knows what else.

  18. The only problem with this argument is that Facebook does not attribute the related post to any one person. They are served up as an independent item after the ‘Like’ note in the news feed. Saying that this is a related is not the same as saying Johnny Wonny liked this post. So I don’t understand the argument; the distinction is very clear.
    Sherrilynne Starkie recently posted..Social media lessons from Lac-MéganticMy Profile

    1. Sherrilynne,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I’m a little surprised that you don’t understand the argument though. While the distinction is clear to you, I agree with both the author of the article and the creator of the video that most Facebook users will see the post, your name and assume that it’s something that you liked.

      This conversation is just getting started. So, we’ll see how many others hold the same position that you do. (This could get interesting.)
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..5 Basic Tips for WordPress Bloggers and Website OwnersMy Profile

  19. Great idea to write about this Sherryl.

    Came across the info you posted on Facebook about 15 minutes ago and have already shared it. What they are doing is unethical and lamentable.

    Isn’t sending out invented stories in the name of Facebook members fraud – or at least dishonest? How can anyone build up a profile on social media if Facebook sends out any kind of information they want in your name without you knowing?

    Agree with you Sherryl, that the more of us share this information the better. If there is an outcry from Facebook members, they will, like with copy rights to member’s pictures, have to stop what they are doing.
    Catarina recently posted..Are you a thought leader?My Profile

    1. It does seem totally unfair to me too Catarina. We work so hard to protect our reputations and by simply liking something, we can suddenly be associated with something that we would never post ourselves. I think FB is going too far on this one.

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