Facebook can certainly stalk you better than your ex! Haven’t you felt that every time you glance through the ‘People You May Know’ section?
Through its ever mysterious algorithm, Facebook happens to know a lot about us, follows us everywhere and even asks you to befriend a random acquaintance you’ve only ever interacted with offline.
Every time I meet someone new, they appear in my People You May Know on Facebook— Morgan Colón (@morganhoneyb) June 19, 2016
Had the same experience? Amid similar privacy concerns raised by users recently, Fusion reported that Facebook is using your location data to help find people nearby who could potentially be a friend. These people are shown to you in the “People You May Know” section on Facebook.
The feature as you know suggests users who have no or few mutual friends on the network and most often, if you have noticed carefully, nothing in common beyond having shared the same physical space.
This means if two people have their GPS turned on within the Facebook app, and both of them are in the same area for a long time, they might find the other in their ‘People You May Know’ list. Creepy, right?
Facebook’s flip-flop policy on this matter has users confused:
After having no other reasonable explanation for it, Facebook confirmed on Monday that it does use your smartphone location to suggest new friends. But at the same time insisted that there needs to be another factor before it shows you a suggested friend. A Facebook spokesperson added,
”People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know. We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported and many other factors.”
But on Tuesday, it retracted from its previous statement saying it doesn’t currently use location data to suggest new friends for you.
The story later changed again when it became clear that Facebook had experimented with recommending new friends based on city-wide location data to a small group of users last year but discontinued the project.
Multiple people took to the internet to reveal that they had also received weird friend recommendations in the past, likely based on location information. So, Facebook’s reversal on its statement is now making users wonder about how friend recommendations actually work?
Have you noticed on Facebook when you stalk someone so much they appear in the people you may know section 😂— ❣✮ ℳ♡♡ ℳ♡♡ ✮❣ (@M0O_MOO) June 28, 2016
Nowadays you wave at a stranger in the streets and a few minutes later they are on your ‘people you may know’ list on fb— JD (@jamal_dakane) June 28, 2016
People you may know of fb is low key creepy AF. Just got some random number, automatically shows up in my “people you may know” on fb. Stop.— Rave Dad✌️ (@AdamPardo) June 20, 2016
People that I thought I would never meet are the people now that show up in my “People You May Know” on facebook. Life is crazy.— Jared Smith (@thatonejaredguy) June 20, 2016
Check out this Reddit thread where users complained about the same.
Well, it’s no surprise Facebook uses our location for a lot of things. How else do you think it keeps suggesting local stores, clubs and restaurants you may be interested in visiting?
Also, Facebook denying that it doesn’t use our location doesn’t seem like a plausible explanation. And what are those ‘other factors’ that go into friend recommendations? Hope the social media giant comes up with a better explanation,
Meanwhile, amid speculations, Fusion has another theory. It says that Facebook could be looking at IP addresses and wireless networks rather than GPS or cellular location data to determine location and issue recommendations. But that again would be violating our privacy, right?
So, what should you do about it?
Now that you know Facebook uses the location factor so rampantly, you can turn it off. Thankfully, it lets users opt out of location sharing inside the privacy settings in its app ( Settings app, under Privacy > Location Services).
You can also check if any of your contacts have been imported, and request to have them removed on the “invite history” page.