This morning, I woke up to find an inbox full of readers freaked out about Facebook friend suggestions. What’s the big deal about that? Privacy-minded Facebook users can’t figure out where these suggestions are coming from, and aren’t happy with the possibilities.
Dawn gave us some examples of friends that Facebook is suggesting for her:
A couple of examples of people facebook has suggested to me (again, none of the addresses were imported to facebook) – a client (work email stored on my outlook contacts, but that is it, no mutual friends or common networks), the current wife of an ex-boyfriend, a former co-worker from 10+ years ago (again no current email anywhere), my now deceased mother-in-law (this one puzzles me less, but she died two years ago, why is she coming up now??)
Freaky. So what’s going on here? Reader Megan turned up this blog post, where Tony Ruscoe formulated a theory about why this is happening, then tested it with his own Gmail contacts list, Facebook account, and some accomplices. What did they discover? Well, when you import your e-mail contacts and choose to skip over and not add certain people to your friends list, Facebook doesn’t forget. Facebook also forms relationships based on other people’s imported contact lists, meaning that even if you’ve never imported your own lists, Facebook sees your address in other people’s contact lists and figures out relationships based on that.
How can you get Facebook to cut it out? You can start by removing any stored contact lists that Facebook has for you. If you’re logged in to Facebook, do that at this link. If you want to take it a step further, change your privacy settings so you’re not visible in search results.