How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met

12th nov 2017

In real life, in the natural course of conversation, it is not uncommon to talk about a person you may know. You meet someone and say, “I’m from Sarasota,” and they say, “Oh, I have a grandparent in Sarasota,” and they tell you where they live and their name, and you may or may not recognise them.

You might assume Facebook’s friend recommendations would work the same way: You tell the social network who you are, and it tells you who you might know in the online world. But Facebook’s machinery operates on a scale far beyond normal human interactions. And the results of its People You May Know algorithm are anything but obvious. In the months I’ve been writing about PYMK, as Facebook calls it, I’ve heard more than a hundred bewildering anecdotes:

A man who years ago donated sperm to a couple, secretly, so they could have a child – only to have Facebook recommend the child as a person he should know. He still knows the couple but is not friends with them on Facebook.
A social worker whose client called her by her nickname on their second visit, because she’d shown up in his People You May Know, despite their not having exchanged contact information.
A woman whose father left her family when she was six years old – and who then saw his then-mistress suggested to her as a Facebook friend 40 years later.
An attorney who wrote: “I deleted Facebook after it recommended as PYMK a man who was defence counsel on one of my cases. We had only communicated through my work email, which is not connected to my Facebook, which convinced me Facebook was scanning my work email.”

Investigating the secret algorithm that knows who you know

Connections like these seem inexplicable if you assume Facebook only knows what you’ve told it about yourself. They’re less mysterious if you know about the other file Facebook keeps on you – one that you can’t see or control.

Behind the Facebook profile you’ve built for yourself is another one, a shadow profile, built from the inboxes and smartphones of other Facebook users. Contact information you’ve never given the network gets associated with your account, making it easier for Facebook to more completely map your social connections.
Behind the Facebook profile you’ve built for yourself is another one, a shadow profile, built from the inboxes and smartphones of other Facebook users.

Shadow contact information has been a known feature of Facebook for a few years now. But most users remain unaware of its reach and power. Because shadow-profile connections happen inside Facebook’s algorithmic black box, people can’t see how deep the data-mining of their lives truly is, until an uncanny recommendation pops up.

Facebook isn’t scanning the work email of the attorney above. But it likely has her work email address on file, even if she never gave it to Facebook herself. If anyone who has the lawyer’s address in their contacts has chosen to share it with Facebook, the company can link her to anyone else who has it, such as the defence counsel in one of her cases.

Facebook will not confirm how it makes specific People You May Know connections, and a Facebook spokesperson suggested that there could be other plausible explanations for most of those examples – “mutual friendships”, or people being “in the same city/network”. The spokesperson did say that of the stories on the list, the lawyer was the likeliest case for a shadow-profile connection.

 

 

source/read more: https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/11/how-facebook-figures-out-everyone-youve-ever-met/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SPAM/MORON CHECK: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.