Facebook constantly seems to walk the fine line between creepy and cool, so it shouldn't be surprising that they are doing it again. The "People You May Know" feature has always been a surprising one, constantly finding people that you do indeed know. The rhyme or reason for how those people are selected has never been clear before - and now that it is, you'll probably wish it weren't.
Facebook is tracking the locations of users of smartphones so that it can suggest you to people who have shared a GPS data point with you. This is the reason that you are constantly getting notifications of someone that looks really familiar but you don't actually know who she is.
It can be someone who went to college with you, someone that shops at the same Target, or even someone who goes to the same gym. You shouldn't be surprised anymore as to who pops up in that box.
The only way to avoid this is to check the privacy settings on your phone. Most of us have Facebook set to "always," but in reality it should be set to "never" if we don't want them to do some creepy stuff.
The two parents hadn’t exchanged contact information (one way Facebook suggests friends is to look at your phone contacts). The only connection the two appeared to have was being in the same place at the same time, and thus their smartphones being in the same room. The man immediately checked the privacy settings on his phone and saw that Facebook “always” had access to his location. He immediately changed it to “never.” (He also did not want to reveal his identity for this story.)
“People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “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.”
One of those is indeed smartphone location. However, a shared location isn't the only thing. There would have to be an overlap in the network somehow, whether that be friends in common or something else.
Facebook has gotten a lot of attention because of the data it collects, including the fact that it tracks you into stores. Until now, people didn't realize just how much that could impact them.
The implications are pretty far-reaching. It could be a great way to reconnect with people that you met in passing but forgot to exchange information with them. It could also be pretty bad. Fusion envisions some of those bad situations: "Imagine going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and then getting “Friend” suggestions the next day for members of the group along with their full names and profile information. Or getting hit on at the bar by a guy that gives you the creeps, giving him the cold shoulder and no information about yourself, but later getting a ‘Friend Request’ from him. Or visiting an abortion clinic and discovering that one of the abortion protestors outside was offered up your identity by Facebook."
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For now, the best thing you can do is turn off Facebook's access to your location by going into your phone's privacy settings.