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Run for your (private) lives! Facebook's creepy Graph Search is upon us

It will only Sting for a minute ... bitch

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Facebook will roll out its Graph Search in North America more than six months after the free-content ad network debuted the beta feature to a lucky few.

The company said everyone who uses the US English website version of Facebook would be able to access Graph Search, which allows people to look up information about friends of friends. The end goal is ultimately to find out what punters are really interested in, lob well-placed adverts at them and satisfy investors of Mark Zuckerberg's ad-backed network.

At present, Facebook claims 195 million monthly active users in the US and Canada. It commands a global userbase database containing private and public details about the lives of 1.1 billion people.

Graph Search works by knitting together different parts of the network that have been publicly shared by individuals to help users build up creepy profiles about others on the site.

For example, they can ask "people who like BNP [British National Party] and The Police" and discover that fewer than 100 Facebookers are fans of extreme right wing politics and Sting's band.

Facebook is, in effect, making content that has been shared publicly on the network much more easy to find. At present, it has no plans to jam Graph Search with ads but it is almost inevitable that this should follow given that the company derives a vast amount of revenue from advertising.

As Google has shown, displaying ads alongside search results is a very fruitful business.

But Graph Search is still something of a half-baked product: Facebook has yet to offer up a mobile version - which is hardly surprising given the company's historic slowness to respond to the fondleslab and smartphone market. Its search mechanism is also relatively limited as it can't track back to old status updates, for example.

Zuck's programmers in Menlo Park have been clear from the start that Graph Search remains under development. That said, Facebook is clearly satisfied enough to spin it out to American English users of the site.

In recent months, concerns have been raised about the function. In February, Facebook tried to allay fears about perverts using Graph Search to prey on teenagers on the network, saying that controls would be in place to protect young people.

But such a process is almost impossible to adequately and accurately police. Need proof? Just look at how many kids under the age of 13 are actively using Facebook with or without their parents' permission. ®

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