You know who doesn’t like to be spied? Mark Zuckerberg. That’s probably why he covers with tape both the camera and microphone of his Mac. Ironically, though, Facebook does some spying of its own. A new report shows that the giant social network is tracking your phone’s location to suggest friends based on where you’re going. Before you get too paranoid about it, you should know it only tracks your location if it has the permission to do so. You can prevent it from ever happening again by simply going to the settings app on the iPhone or Android device that you’re using.
That still doesn’t mean it’s okay to recommend friends based on the places you frequent, as that might breach your privacy. And Facebook told Fusion that it doesn’t recommend friends using location information.
“People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know,” a Facebook spokesperson told the site. “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.”
“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.”
Fusion reports that a person attended an anonymous parents meeting for suicidal teens, only to be shown one of the parents in his friends suggestion box the following day. The two individuals did not exchange contact information, which would be one other way Facebook could connect them. The only connection between them appears to be the same location. The person who discovered the unexpected friends suggestion checked the phone and found that Facebook was allowed to always access his location. He changed it to “never,” following the inicident.
This is highly sensitive data that could have an adverse impact on users, especially because Facebook doesn’t make it clear that location information can be used for friends recommendations. So next time you get a friend request from that creepy person at the bar you went to the night before, you’ll probably want to block Facebook from accessing your location.