Social networking platforms are becoming increasingly sophisticated in culling information from users, inadvertently fanning the flames of new privacy debates.
Earlier this week, Facebook rolled out a new social search tool that lets users gather content that other users have already shared on their Facebook profiles, such as relationship statuses, news, music and eating habits. Graph Search is being billed as a powerful tool to help people refine searches for public information, or locate others who share their interests.
(Read More: Facebook Rolls Out Social Search Feature.)
Yet analysts note that Graph's evolution could eventually allow Facebook to challenge dating websites and other search engines. Some experts say those moves raise more thorny questions over user data, in a sector beset by widespread privacy and fraud jitters.
"It's fair to question the common narrative that because [Graph] Search respects privacy settings, then there aren't privacy issues,"said Woodrow Hartzog, a law professor and affiliate scholar at the Center for Internet and Society.
Hence why Facebook's new search tool comes with both risks and rewards. The more refined search capabilities of Graph could "substantially increases the probability that some [users] will actually see aw hole trail of information that you thought was tucked away in some dark corner of Facebook," according to Hartzog.
"Certainly that is a great feature, but we've seen some really harmful things happen when privacy settings are not respected," he added.
As debates erupt over how social networks can repurpose user information for profit, it also raises the specter of ordinary users using the same tools for nefarious purposes — which run the gamut from bothersome fundraising appeals from Nigeria, and dating hoaxes.
Facebook's Social Graph's arrival coincides with a scandal involving an NFL-bound college football star and an online romance gone wrong.