Facebook is using your smartphone location data to help it find people that live or work nearby that you could make friends with, according to Fusion.
The publication made the claim after talking to an unnamed source that attended an anonymous parents meeting for suicidal teens, only to be shown one of the parents in his Facebook friend suggestions the next day.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Fusion that the social media platform does look at your location data when making friend suggestions. However, they added that Facebook does not recommend friends purely because you happen to have been within the same vicinity them, adding that there needs to be another overlapping factor before this would happen.
“People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know,” the Facebook spokesperson told Fusion. “We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported and many other factors.”
They added: “Location information by itself doesn’t indicate that two people might be friends. That’s why location is only one of the factors we use to suggest people you may know.”
People may be alarmed to learn that Facebook is tracking their location data in this way, particularly if Facebook is recommending you make friends with people you meet in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, or other destinations where you assume you have a degree of anonymity.
Those who don’t want Facebook to use their location data can turn it off by going into the settings on the Facebook app.
UPDATE (June 29): Following the publication of this article, Facebook said that it doesn’t currently use “location data, such as device location and location information you add to your profile, to suggest people you may know.”
The statement from Mark Zuckerberg’s company is interesting given Facebook reportedly told Fusion journalist Kashmir Hill on two separate occasions that it was using location data to recommend new friends to its users.
Facebook now says it only ran a brief test using location data in 2015, according to Fusion.
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