You take great pains to hide the fact that you’re attending a support group once a week. It’s no one’s business but your own and it would be awkward if your co-workers found out. So you keep it a secret until one day Facebook hands you a surprise. Two people from the group show up in your “people you may know” friend recommendation box. How could that happen when you don’t even know their last names?
You’re enjoying a drink at a bar with a friend but there’s a guy there who won’t take no for an answer. The situation goes from annoying to scary, so you leave. The next day, he shows up as a recommended friend and you show up on his list. You purposely gave him a phony first name but thanks to Facebook he now has your full name and the name of the store where you work.
Coincidence? Maybe once or twice, but Fusion found multiple instances of people coming face-to-virtual-face with people who should never have made the list!
It was easy to see the one and only thing these people had in common. They were all in the same place at the same time. Meaning their phones – with geolocation activated – were in the same place at the same time.
In an effort to get to the bottom of this, Fusion reporter
By using location data for even a portion of a person’s profile package, Facebook is effectively drilling huge holes in the privacy wall. Not only are they outing people, but they’re potentially putting them in harm’s way by revealing personal identifiers such as their place of business or school.
After Hill posted the story, a spokesperson for Facebook said it wasn’t true.
“We’re not using location data, such as device location and location information you add to your profile, to suggest people you may know. We may show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you are part of, contacts you’ve imported and other factors.”
If that’s true, then how can they explain the uncanny connections? They can’t and. . . if someone pursues the subject. . . Facebook could get hit with heavy fines from the FTC for tracking without permission.
The reality is this: lots of companies use the chip in our phones to send out targeted advertising, to calculate mileage, to checkin to a location or give us directions when we’re lost. That’s terrific. Where it gets sticky is when those same companies then offer that location information to a third party without permission.
If you’re getting odd friend recommendations on Facebook, you could try turning off the geolocation services on your phone to see if it makes a difference. But in the end, there’s only one sure way to keep Facebook from invading your privacy — delete your Facebook page and staying far far away from now on.