Facebook "People you may know": How did they know?

I recently moved to a new city, and signed a lease to rent a house. I have zero Facebook friends from my new town, and absolutely no connection to my landlord, other than he is my landlord. He isn’t the landlord of anyone else I know, and I don’t really even know anybody here yet period. So imagine my shock to see my landlord suggested by facebook as a person I may know.

What the hell? How did Facebook know this?

Either you or he let Facebook check out your E-mail contacts, and his or your e-mail address given to FB matches the one in the contact list.

If you have facebook on your phone, they go through your phone contacts and suggest people to you.

I think the facebook people-you-may-know algorithm is proprietary so unless a facebook employee plans to spill the beans there may not be a factual answer that is available to the public.

According to their help:

A couple of educated guesses:

The landlord may have searched for you on facebook as a means of checking you out while processing your application.

You and the landlord may share the same IP (not likely but if you’re renting a room in a house or apartment that includes internet access, maybe)

You may have the landlord in your email contacts which facebook encourages you to share with them on signup.

By some stunning but possible coincidence you may really know someone who is actually friends with the landlord and not realize it, or they may belong to some group or organization that you do and you don’t realize it.

The most common method is friends of friends. However, it did suggest my physics professor and my writing professor. I have no mutual contacts with either of them.

As Crazyhorse said, perhaps Facebook is listing the people who have searched for your name (or your e-mail address), looked at your public profile, etc. at least T times in the past N months. This sounds like something a landlord would do when researching a potential tenant.

Considering that when I joined FB there were at least 5 or 6 girls I had dated on the “People you may know” list, I always assumed they cross match your email address to any contact list they have access to, and match any email address in their records to your contact list, if you give them access to it. Not magic.

I can’t be the only person who finds all this online connectivity a bit creepy, can I?

I made a completely anonymous facebook page, using a throw-away gmail address comprised of random letters and numbers - I did this so I could view the occasional fb links people sent me. (Maybe I’m off-base, but at one point it seemed to me that withlut an account, I couldn’t see some fb links.)

I’ve never “liked” anything, communicated with anyone, commented, put up photos, accessed fb on my phone, etc. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever look at my profile, such as it is - there is nothing there at all. It’s an inert page, for the most part, except I’m usually signed in. So a suggestion to “post a comment” often shows up at the bottom of other sites I visit.

Yet I still get a “People You May Know” list on any fb page I open, comprised as best I can tell of utterly random human beings with whom I have utterly nothing in common, except being human. I just checked - it’s an extremely long list of what looks like hundreds of potential “friends” from all over the USA. At a glance, most appear very young. And unfamiliar, and uninteresting.

The length of the list is arbitrary once you create the algorithm. These folks are matching you based on the lowest criteria they have in the system since there’s nothing else to go on (mainly email addresses, location, and college/work). Facebook has enough users that they could generate 100,000’s of matches if they wanted to.

Of course they’re uninteresting to you, they have almost nothing in common with you other than being carbon-based life forms. Since there’s nothing of “you” in your profile that is what you would expect.

Thanks Telemark.

I still think it’s creepy, though!

When I very first joined FB, I had entered nothing whatsoever about tastes or likes or anything as part of my profile. I had not even yet searched for people I knew. But the very first thing that came up after signing up was a suggested “friend”. I ignored it, but every time I signed in to FB, this same suggested friend’s name came up. I finally caved and e-mailed her to ask if we knew each other. It eventually shook out that she was a major poster here at the Dope! But I had never typed in anything remotely connected with the Dope in any way.

It freaked me the heck out.

WAG, but I notice that you display your email address in your SDMB profile. Maybe they harvest that kind of public information from the web and just wait for someone with a matching email address to come along and sign up, whereupon they scour their records for anyone that might have some connection.

We talked about this last year and there were a few posts recently that are of interest to this thread.

I’m with you. I now block everything from facebook. What sucks is that some sites can only be contacted through facebook. I used to a visit a local parenting website because it had a full calendar of all kids events in the area. Now they’ve moved solely to facebook. Can you imagine conducting business solely on facebook and how much they must know about you?

We need to sticky one of these, or at least make the “PLEASE SEARCH BEFORE YOU START NEW THREADS” sticky more prominent. Or something.

July 21
Oct. 28, 2010
Sept. 22, 2010
March 31, 2010
Aug. 30, 2009
July 9, 2009

And those are just the ones that used the phrase “people you may know” exactly.

Boy, you fuck one goat.

You’re not the boss of me.

It definitely uses your e-mails because I have had friend suggestions for people that I never meet but mail regulary.


Sorry for the all caps, but i was really freaked out today when i created a new Facebook account with one of my anonymous email address. I search myself and saw that my privacy settings were more or less what i expected. Later I went to my other computer and there was that new fake person I created in the “People you may know box”

I think this is a huge invasion of privacy… I read somewhere … couple years ago that “Facebook will never disclose who’s profiles you’ve viewed” well here it is there is the proof!!!




Two thirds of FBI.

They finally got smart and just set up a website as a front to have everyone compile their own files on themselves.


Bumping this thread to confirm this.

Two days ago, not quite trusting Facebook’s own tool for the job and wanting to see how locked down my account is, I created a fake profile with a false name via a throwaway email acccount to observe my account via a non-friend FB user.

This profile does not have any ‘friends’ and I did not use the ‘find friends’ feature via email. All it has is a fake age and gender. Nothing else at all. The only thing this profile has ever done in the five minutes it was active was to look at my real profile.

This morning on my actual profile, in the “People you may know” box, was the name of the fake profile I had created.

If anyone wants to test this out, PM me and I’ll get this fake account to look at your profile, then see if it turns up in the box too.