Have you ever received a notification on your smartphone saying: You have a new friend suggestion: John Smith, or scrolled to see a carousel of suggested profiles on your timeline? If so, congratulations, you’re a Facebook user! Jokes aside, this feature astonishes many people, and some think the app can use your microphone or that they use NSA technology.
Is it true? Facebook doesn’t disclose much about its algorithms, so each of the outlandish claims you may read online is merely speculation. Friend suggestions are helpful and allow for beautiful stories of people reconnecting with loved ones years later or finding relatives out of the blue. So, how does it work, really?
Facebook explains that friend suggestions come from friends you have in common with another person, your profile’s details like your hometown or school. The algorithm also considers your Facebook activity, like the pages you like, and interact with, your groups, or pictures where you’re tagged.
Furthermore, since Messenger exists, Facebook can also use the contacts in your phone if you decide to connect it. The app can find someone who has your number or email address in their phone and try to connect you both. This is the official explanation given by Facebook, but there’s more to it, given the accuracy of the system, even with empty profiles.
It has become customary to put personal information on your social media, especially Facebook, now that it’s also used for professional purposes. You’ll provide your name, email address, phone number, contacts, birthday, gender, relationship status, and musical or film taste when using Facebook. You can also add your city of residence, schools you attended, and your current and past occupations.
All this information can be used by Facebook to establish a friends’ suggestion list, and it will gather data from your profile and posts and the information your friends provided. That’s why you can get suggestions for profiles without common friends.
User’s Call and Text Data
When you use Messenger to call and text people, the data is used by Facebook. However, if you give it access, it can also analyze the contacts on your SIM card and use the phone numbers to suggest any profile linked to these numbers.
Moreover, each device has a unique print called canvas fingerprinting, which tracks and identifies visitors to HTML5 web pages. It basically replaces cookies, and this is commonly used by apps like Facebook to learn more about you and suggest content to you in ads or to suggest people with the same interests.
You have probably noticed that certain apps ask for your location to improve suggestions, and Facebook does this too. When the app has access to your location, it can use it to know where you go and propose to people near you or visit local pages related to your country of residence.
For example, if you visit a NetEnt Casino Canada online, Facebook might recommend friends who also visit the site. It’s essential to be precise that all of these connections are not handled by humans but by an algorithm and an army of bots.
Is It Based On Who Views Your Profile?
Officially, Facebook claims that the friend suggestions system isn’t based on the profiles you or someone else visits. Is it true? There’s no actual evidence of this, except for the eerie accuracy Facebook can have, but when the only official response to this is it doesn’t; and no further precisions, it raises eyebrows.
We know location and activity on Facebook from your network are vital in suggesting people. Still, giving such accurate suggestions from a profile that nothing directly links is a bit thin. It’s especially shocking when reporters have their protected sources recommended to them, and it begs the question of how it works precisely.
Facebook can’t directly use third-party apps to recommend friends to you. However, if you use your Facebook account to log into services like Tinder or a website, the two will communicate with each other. In the case of Tinder, it’s used to prevent you from finding people you already have on Facebook and avoid the embarrassment of seeing a relative there.
However, the line is blurrier with Whatsapp or Instagram, which now belong to the Meta group, and we can’t precisely know how much of the data is shared between the three apps. Each app offers you to synchronize your contacts, so it’s certain that they use that, but the rest is all up to interpretation.
This is what is currently known about Facebook’s friends’ suggestion system. However, it’s essential to note that Meta is very protective and vague when it comes to disclosing how it gathers information. That’s primarily because the information they gather is what makes them successful.
There has been some back and forth on their answers regarding the usage of the location. Still, we know they use the information you provide willingly and that your friends may provide it intentionally or not via their posts.
Moreover, the fact that Meta now owns Whatsapp and Instagram and constantly asks you to provide your location or synchronize your contacts for more suggestions proves that these apps can communicate together.