On Facebook, Your Crush May No Longer Be A Secret

When it comes to privacy, Facebook is having a rough week.

Facebook logoWe wrote yesterday about how Facebook appears to be making friend recommendations based on user location. If they are, and we think they are, that will put a number of users in an awkward position. It also is a betrayal of the trust that users put in Facebook to not overstep the privacy framework that each of us has in mind. That’s a tough line to draw though because we all have different ideas about what we “allow” Facebook to do with our data.

Facebook came out yesterday and denied that they are using location data to make friend recommendations, but it doesn’t look like anyone believes them.

Early this morning someone posted in the Facebook sub on Reddit that it appeared he was getting friend recommendations for people whose profiles he had viewed. Part of the comment has since been removed, but one commenter confirmed the claim based on his experience.

“Yes, it does. I clicked through to a Twitch streamer’s Facebook profile one time, and now it occasionally lists her as “People you may know.” We have no mutual friends, don’t live in the same country, and I haven’t even “Like’d” Twitch or any computer games.”

We obviously can’t confirm any of that but at least two people believe that viewing someone’s profile could be enough reason for Facebook to suggest that you friend that person. We wonder if it works the other way around.

If it does work the other way around, i.e. if you view someone’s Facebook profile, then that person might get a suggestion to add you as a friend, it is going to throw a monkey wrench into a ritual that probably happens hundreds of thousands of times per day. You see a cute boy or girl in class or at work and you don’t know much about him/her but you do know the name. You hop on Facebook to see the pictures or learn more about the person. It happens, a lot.

It is probably no coincidence that these two issues surfaced in the same week. It could be that Facebook is selectively testing ways to increase engagement, or possibly they are moving forward with wholesale changes to how they use our data.

We should be skeptical. From a related article at Forbes:

“All of this, as per the Facebook rulebook, is fine. It can change its privacy policy any time it likes. It can carry out tests as and when its teams of marketers and scientists want to play, without getting permission. It’s akin to living in a whole new country where you’re subject to the laws and mores drafted by invisible overlords who quietly govern the way you live, with the pretense that this is what you want and they know best.”

I’m prompted to add my phone number each time I log into Facebook “for my security”. They can’t have it. Skeptical.


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