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How Does Facebook Determine ‘People You May Know’?

‘People You May Know’ Facebook Friend-Finding Algorithm

Are your Facebook Privacy Settings affording you the Privacy you Want? Ever wondered how Facebook can source all the ‘people you may know’ and often get it right? Its all part of Digital Marketing

It would seem that Facebook was designed to read our minds sometimes but you will be pleased to know that this is not yet possible. The internal methods used by Facebook to gather information and make useful suggestions are questionable and although the social platform is designed to enhance user experience it also presents damaging risks to your privacy rights. Although you may not be able to gain full control over your privacy we believe the secret lies in your Facebook settings; take some time to understand that when you agree to ‘allow access’ or press ‘OK’ to an annoying pop-up you could be signing your privacy rights away. Facebook privacy settings are becoming increasingly complex and require some knowledge of how the platform works. In this blog post we will be discussing the famous Facebook friend-finding algorithm commonly referred to as ‘People You May Know’. For those of you who are not familiar, this is a Facebook tool which automatically suggests ‘People You May Know’ and provides the option to connect through just one click ‘Send Friend Request’.

“It’s amazing how Facebook can determine ‘People You May Know’ so efficiently. Saves me loads of time looking for old friends and acquaintances to connect with. Very smart!”
Facebook User

Unfortunately, a large percentage of Facebook users haven’t got a clue how the algorithms work within the platform and how Facebook operates behind-the-scenes. It is extremely dynamic when it comes to appearing user-friendly and efficient but many don’t realise how slippery the process is to get such accurate results and how damaging it can be to your privacy rights. One example of how Facebook determines the ‘People you may Know’ is by simply mining your phone or email contacts, locating them on Facebook and suggesting them through different channels. By connecting your phone number or your email contacts to your Facebook account you automatically provide access to your entire address book and this is where Facebook’s not-so-impressive friend-finding services sources its information.

Near Impossible to Maintain Complete Privacy
Although Facebook does provide options to remove synced contact information and opt out of syncing contacts it does not provide a full solution to the issues being raised in more specific circles where confidentiality is crucial. To avoid such issues it is advised that health professionals and other personal sectors do not sync their phone and email contact lists.

Not Much Say in the Matter.
Do you share your phone or email contacts with Facebook? The truth is, although it reduces chances of being found it doesn’t really make a difference anyway because even if you don’t share your contacts list, any contact with your number saved might! In such cases Facebook is still informed of your relationship and will still use this knowledge to connect you via ‘People You May Know’.

Psychiatrist Lisa Speaks Out on Privacy
Here’s one excellent example of how Facebook’s friend-finding algorithm can cause up a stir and lead to a devastating outcome. One psychiatrist going under the name of Lisa recently complained about Facebook guiding all her patients to connect with one another. Facebook identified the common contact they all had in their phone contacts list and assumed they were all part of one network. The following statement was made by Lisa and refers specifically to patients with self-harming issues and eating disorders.

“In addition to breaching patient confidentiality through allowing clients to identify one another, this could also raise issues over the triggering of negative behavior … For example, it could encourage communication between vulnerable users or draw users’ attention to social media profiles which may include images or posts that could trigger negative health behaviour.” Lisa, Social Psychiatrist

Not on Facebook?
You may be under the impression that Facebook’s algorithm works only within the platform but unfortunately this is not the case. Even if you do not use Facebook the social platform still has the ability to identify and connect users that may both have your number saved in their phones. For example, Lisa’s patients can still be connected with one another even if she does cease using Facebook entirely. The only solution that can avoid this is to have one phone per patient! The severe risks this poses for legal professionals, health specialists, landlords and so many other circles are not controlled and cannot be absolutely prevented at this time.

“Almost every professional person I have had contact with has ended up in my ‘People you may know’ tool … only served to reinforce why I share as little information about myself as possible.” Maya (37) Australia.”

One of Maya’s most shocking moments was when her ex-therapist popped up in her list of ‘People You May Know’ even without having her number or email saved anymore. Although not proven, it is assumed that this may have happened because the therapist had her number saved and could have looked at Maya’s profile – logging an interest in the system. Be informed, be aware and manage your Facebook pages or profiles accordingly.

Please welcome to post any questions or comments you have below.

Are you interested to find out more about how to exercise your right to privacy on Facebook? Contact SME Social Media Services in London and Surrey. We always have someone here in our office to answer any questions you have. Call us direct on 0203 418 0001 or send us a message.

About the Author:

Based in Staines-upon-Thames and ideally located for web design Surrey and webdesign London clients, we offer a friendly and personal website design and hosting service to clients. Our bespoke website solutions are now complemented by designs based on the WordPress content management system that allow for easy editing of web pages by you the client. Greater control by the end user of websites is a growing trend and one that we are embracing. This is backed up by our ability to provide IT support to your business