Well, this sounds like potentially a pretty big deal. Facebook is using smartphone location data to recommend new friends to users, which suggests many possible privacy invasions. This is also a technique NSA uses to track surveillance targets.
âThanks to tracking the location of usersâ smartphones, the social network may suggest you friend people youâve shared a GPS data point with, meaning your friend suggestions could include someone whose face you know, but whose name you didnât until Facebook offered it up to you,âÂ writes Kashmir Hill at Fusion.
From her report:
âPeople You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know,â a Facebook spokesperson said. âWe show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks youâre part of, contacts youâve imported and many other factors.â
One of those factors is smartphone location. A Facebook spokesperson said though that shared location alone would not result in a friend suggestion, saying that the two parents must have had something else in common, such as overlapping networks.
âLocation information by itself doesnât indicate that two people might be friends,â said the Facebook spokesperson. âThatâs why location is only one of the factors we use to suggest people you may know.â
Facebook has gotten more aggressive in its use of smartphone location data in the last year, tracking which stores you go to in order to tell advertisers if their online ads worked and letting advertisers use your phoneâs location to geotarget you with ads. But until now, most people didnât realize that Facebook was also tracking their phoneâs location to suggest friends to them.
There are all sorts of positive and abusive scenarios one could imagine with location-based social network suggestions, some of which Kashmir details in the article.
In a 2015 report titled âWhy Does Facebook Keep Suggesting You Friend Your Tinder Matches,â Motherboard questioned exactly how Facebook seemed to be figuring out out with whom its users were going out on Tinder dates.
âThe report was ultimately inconclusive as experts said that data from Tinder doesnât flow back to Facebook, but it may well have been location-based.â