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Microsoft Bing Adds Facebook Search

Microsoft has added Facebook search to Bing, with an eye toward avoiding potential privacy issues. The expansion into social networks comes about eight months after Microsoft included search results from Twitter. Users can now search Facebook and Twitter at the same time by going to www.bing.com/social.

In adding Facebook, Microsoft is trying to avoid privacy issues by searching popular shared links from Facebook users in the aggregate form. In addition, Bing only searches from users who have set their status updates to be shared with "everyone."

"No names or photos, or even the text in the update associated with the link are published -- just the link in aggregate," Bing Senior VP Yusuf Mehdi said in the search engine's blog Wednesday.

For example, a search for "World Cup" returns links Facebook users are sharing on the international sporting event, with a caption extracted from the original article shown below the link.

"When we don’t have an interesting caption to show, we sometimes display how many users have shared that link," Mehdi said.

Microsoft has good reason to approach Facebook carefully. The site has been battling intense criticism over its handling of user privacy. As a result, Facebook has made changes to make it easier for users to find and set privacy controls.

Facebook's focus on openness comes as pressure mounts from privacy and consumer protection groups, which are calling for government regulations to protect users of online social networks.

Last month, 15 such organizations filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and sent a letter to Congress saying Facebook has engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of consumer protection law.