Did you know that the Facebook mobile apps log your location, irrespective of whether you publicly check in or not?
Several months ago, I noticed something unusual on Facebook. When I visited the site after going out, people I’d seen while out would surface in Suggested Friends.
At first I thought it was a some algorithm on Facebook’s end doing really good guessing, until I attended a local sporting event one day. When I visited Facebook later, the #1 suggested friend was someone who’d been sitting within 4 meters of me. The friend I’d been watching the game with had engaged this person’s group in conversation, but I didn’t know any of them and hadn’t introduced myself.
Some time later, this person tagged themselves in a picture I’d taken of a player and mutual friend that day. We’re now 1st degree connections on both Facebook and Twitter.
Based on the above, it seems Facebook is noting when friends are located near each other, which mutual friends are in the area, and then suggesting some of those mutual friends as connections. But that’s not all. I’ve noticed most of the suggestions I’ve received are people I consider attractive. I’m guessing that Facebook’s figured out what I go for based on profile visits, picture views, and maybe even phone number exchanges* and is now surfacing people I’d be most likely to talk to.
While many people call features like the above “scary” and “creepy,” I personally welcome any automated attempts to improve my social life. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s there was a lot of talk of “ubiquitous computing” in which the systems you interact with would not only be omnipresent but also nearly omniscient. That era has arrived, at the expense of some privacy, but I really don’t care if Facebook or some marketer knows what I’m into. I’m gonna be pitched to anyway, and I’d rather it be something I like than something I’m totally not interested in.
Keep it coming, Facebook 🙂
*On Android, the Facebook app can read your contacts and texts, so it knows who you’ve exchanged numbers with and how much you talk to them