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How to search Facebook

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The examples presented here should give the reader enough background and details to try out this approach and perhaps enough information to fully meet the reader’s needs for ongoing use of the techniques. However, what is included here just scratches the surface in terms of the potential and extent of the overall technique.

At the end, some very helpful resources for further exploration are given. Additionally, if constructing URLs yourself isn’t appealing, you are also shown two third-party interfaces that construct and submit searches for some one- and two-variable queries (for example, name and employer).

Examples of building a Facebook (Graph) URL

Very basic example—Searching for users with the name John Oliver:

facebook.com/search/str/John Oliver/users-named

In this example, facebook.com/search points to Facebook’s search function and str says that a string of characters is to be searched. John Oliver provides the string of characters to be searched. users-named specifies that the name field in user profiles is the field to be searched.

Second example—For a search of people who currently live in Philadelphia, you use:


Here, pages-named tells Facebook to look within pages for the just-identified string (Philadelphia).

residents/present says to look in the “lives in” part of profiles. (For former residents, you would use residents/past.)

Example—Combining name and residence in the two searches above:

facebook.com/search/str/John Oliver/users-named/str/philadelphia/pages-named/residents/present/intersect

In this example, intersect has to be added to create the intersection (Boolean “AND”) of the two criteria (strings). For statements where you need to create the “union” of criteria (Boolean “OR”) you would use union instead of intersect.

Example containing a name, place of current residence, and current job:


For past employment, you would use employees/past.

Perhaps stating the obvious, instead of constantly re-creating these URLs from scratch, a searcher might create a URL such as the one just shown, then add that page to your bookmark toolbar and thereafter use that bookmarked page as a search template. Sources mentioned later provide all the possible search pieces available.

Investigating detailed data for a specific Facebook user

Even if you have “friended” a person, going to that person’s page will not necessarily show you all the data actually on Facebook. Much additional information about an individual may be found by using a person’s Facebook ID (FBID) in a URL you build. You of course need to know the FBID, which used to be found at the end of the URL for the person’s page but no longer is. You can now find it by going to the person’s page and clicking on the “About” link. Look then at the second number in the URL of that page. (It will have an “A” in front of it. That (without the “A”) is the person’s user number.

For a user with a user number of 1151148113, construct a URL beginning with facebook.com/search/ followed by the subject’s user number, followed by the data item you wish to see, such as “photos-liked”:


Using this approach, you may retrieve any one of more than 300 possible data items.

Especially in police work, knowing who a subject’s friends are can be tremendously useful. For all the above data items listed, you can try applying any of the above to the subject’s friends’ Facebook pages.

Example: facebook.com/search/1151148113/friends/photos-by

Find a subject’s FBID and try the “friends” data item, then try friends/friends (friends of friends) or friends/photos-of, etc.

As you explore, keep in mind that most Facebook users don’t have on their pages all of the types of data items even appearing in the short list just given.

Bottom line

In-depth searching of Facebook isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be well worth the effort.

This article was adapted from an article in The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, a newsletter published by Information Today, Inc. For more information, visit www.infotoday.com.

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