How Does Facebook Determine Friend Suggestions or “Friends You May Know?”

People You May Know

Facebook People You May Know

 

Just recently I was asked by one of my best friends, why Facebook would suggest friends of which she had no mutual friends.  We discussed it for a moment looking for similarities in her profile in comparison to the suggested friend and although they lived in the same city there was no congruence’s that would be cause for the friend suggestion.  The person in question did not even have their city listed in their profile.  So I did some research and found a few blogs and learned that Facebook saves your imported contact lists and based on the email addresses you have uploaded it suggest friends… even those friends you chose not to add or “skip”… Not only  it use your email contacts, it also uses the synced Facebook list on your smartphone to determine friends to suggest as well.  Not Cool Right?

Not only does Facebook save your contact list to suggest friends to you… it uses other peoples contact lists and figures out possible relationships based on mutual contacts from their email lists as well… Now it made so much sense.  My friend did not use Friend Finder but I did and the email address of the person in question was in my list.  Now that is just creepy.

So what does Facebook say about Friend Suggestion?

People You May Know helps you find people you are likely to know. We show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported using friend finder and many other factors.

Since our formula is automatic, you might occasionally see people you don’t know or don’t want to be friends with. …..Via the Facebook Help Center

I have 1600 plus Facebook friends and could care less about friend suggestions.  If you request to be my friend, I’ll add you; as internet marketer exposing people to my personal brand can only help me and my business.  But what about those people who value their privacy and would rather not see friend suggestions of ex boyfriends or their boyfriends ex girlfriends.  Facebook does allow users to delete the contacts uploaded with the Friend Finder but this only deletes your contacts… it does nothing for the other possible people you know on Facebook who have your email address in their contact list.

You can also keep people from seeing you as a suggested friend on other peoples profile by following the directions below.

  1. Choose the “Privacy Settings” option in the Account drop-down menu at the top of any Facebook page.
  2. Select “View settings” in the “Connecting on Facebook” section.
  3. Change the settings for “Search for you on Facebook” and “Send you friend requests” to “Friends of Friends”.

It is important to note that I did not find any official Facebook blog stating they are actually harvesting users email contact lists & comparing them against others to determine your friend suggestions.  Below is what they do say.

I do not want “People You May Know” to find people based on contacts I have imported using the friend finder.

If you have ever used friend finder, the People You May Know feature may show people who have your email address in their address book and/or contacts that you have in your address book. If you would like Facebook to remove these contacts, please follow the instructions found here. …..Via the Facebook Help Center

If the above suggestions aren’t enough to make you feel comfortable about friends being suggested to you or even whose profile you may show up on as a friend suggestion, maybe you should just delete your Facebook profile all together.  Facebook and privacy are two words that don’t mesh very well.  Your digital fingerprint is already on the Internet and chances are if someone wants to find you… they will.

Tami Highbaugh-Abdullah
Creative Marketing Director
Aries – Graphic Design & Internet Marketing
http://ariesgdim.com
Indianapolis, IN
tami@ariesgdim.com 

© 2011 – 2013, AriesGDIM / Tami Highbaugh-Abdullah. All rights reserved.

AriesGDIM / Tami Highbaugh-Abdullah
AriesGDIM / Tami Highbaugh-Abdullah
Hi I am Tami Highbaugh-Abdullah, IMMS. I am the owner of Aries - Graphic Design & Internet Marketing / AriesGDIM. I have owned and operated my company since 2002 creating small businesses with an opportunity to "Stand OUT" from their competitors with bold professional branding development via print, websites, logo design and online brand management. In August of 2010 I completed my Internet Marketing Masters of Science from Full Sail University. I currently offer Digital Marketing as an additional service from my company. My focus has been on Social Media Marketing via Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging. Other services I offer are Internet Brand Management, Keyword Optimization, Website Usability, & Web Analytics. These services further my company goal and mission which is to assist small to medium sized businesses the ability to "stand out" from their larger competitors and be noticed.
  • http://BasicBlogTips.com Ileane

    Hi Tami, Facebook is just rude! I was wondering why I got suggestions to follow a few people that I know, but would NOT want to be friends on Facebook with. Thanks for the tip!

    • http://www.ariesgdim.com AriesGDIM / Tami Highbaugh-Abdullah

      LOL… I know Ileane. I found it a bit intrusive as well but… as I said in the blog… If you want privacy… Facebook probably is not the place for you to be. Glad you found the information here useful. Thanks for the blog tweet.

  • http://BasicBlogTips.com Ileane

    Hi Tami, Facebook is just rude! I was wondering why I got suggestions to follow a few people that I know, but would NOT want to be friends on Facebook with. Thanks for the tip!

  • Kspring3

    I just wanted to thank you for providing the link to the facebook option to ‘Remove all imported contacts’. There were way too many work-related people being suggested as friends. We had no friends in common, and I want to keep my personal and professional worlds distinct.

    • Anonymous

      I understand. I am glad this post could help you. If you have any other Facebook questions I will be happy to try to do a little research to help you out.

  • Mtfritz6643

    I never imported my contacts to FB. Now how does this explain me having FB page info on people that are ONLY IN MY CONTACTS IN MY PHONE?? Which I will state again, I never did nor did I ever plan to give FB my contacts in my phone. So just how did they get access to those names since I did not give that info to FB??? Did they hack my phone’s contact info when I allowed FB to send text alerts to my phone when people post?? If that is where it happened, there was nothing about that happening listed. Otherwise I never would have done it. Now I’m going to have to go in and remove that and hope it helps.

    • Anonymous

      When I enabled the FB app on my phone it asked me about syncing my contacts. You may have accidentally allowed syncing and didn’t know…. You can follow this link http://www.facebook.com/invite_history.php and then delete all imported contacts.

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  • myspam account

    I never even used friend finder, skipped every step related importing contacts and yet facebook has managed to get a hold of every single contacts that I ever emailed with from MSN and randomly offers them as suggestions. Keep in mind I have an empty facebook profile without a single shred of information or even a friend and I don’t even use the same password for the facebook and MSN accounts. Clearly there is an API for MSN which makes it possible to get all the info without ever giving permission.
    What’s next, indexing all my emails to make better suggestions? Oh wait, Google is already doing that with Gmail.

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  • Edroflcopter5

    For three years I have read the local paper online and I especially enjoy reading people’s comments after the article. Without any warning they now require you to have a Facebook account to read the comment section and to post your own comments, so I very reluctantly created a Facebook account.
    My son said just be John Smith and give a false birth date, which I did ( I’m now 33 years younger – ha ha) . I posted no address, no work, no school – nothing. The only truthful info I posted was my cell phone number because Facebook required a phone number to verify the account.

    I was STUNNED to find that Facebook CORRECTLY made about 30 suggestions of people I may know! How do they make these connections????!!

    I think it is very scary. Fake name, fake birth date. No other info.

    All they should have is my cell number, yet they connected me CORRECTLY to about 30 people, some of which I haven’t spoken to in 5 years, a few are their children who I have never spoken to.

    How do you think they did this? My real name isn’t even listed! I find this disturbing.

    • Edroflcopter5

      and I used a new email address which has zero contact information. I signed in to Facebook using Google Chrome.

      • Anonymous

        Did you allow Google Chrome to have any of your information?

    • Anonymous

      Your phone number was probably the connect. I am speculating here but based on the information I found when doing the research for this blog. If anyone has any part of your contact information uploaded to Facebook it can be used to connect to you and other people that could also have your phone number in their contacts… as well as those they think might have a connection to you. I know… very weird and very scary… I say this all the time… if you want privacy… Facebook is not the place you want to be.

      • Edroflcopter5

        I figured it out. It was the LACK of information I provided Facebook which created the accurate list of friends – let me explain – since I provided zero info to Facebook, all they could go by was similar IP numbers. My son and wife have computers on the same router and close IP numbers…and they both use Facebook prolifically. Facebook merely suggested people who are friends on their accounts to me. As soon as I entered the slightest information in my profile ( what college I had attended) the suggested list of friends was completely people I have never met before, and all the people they had suggested earlier were removed. I guess using similar IP numbers is something Facebook considers very low probability of correctly connecting people, unless that is the only info they have. I breathe easier now. :-)

        • Anonymous

          That makes so much sense. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Asrar Shuja

    If I go ahead and look for friends name on my Profile. Even if they are not on my friend’s friend list or contact list I might be suggested to the person I searched for.

    • Anonymous

      I will be honest Asrar. In my research I didn’t see anything that said that would cause Facebook to suggest a friend to you based on a search but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

  • Seventh7son

    I think there is even more going on here. I recently deactivated my personal FB profile, and created a new one from scratch, not filling out any info. As soon as I did this (I was at work) I immediately had Friend Suggestions for people in my building, as well as many of my old friends, most of whom are 3 states away.
    The only thing I can think of is that they are monitoring IP schemes, but even that would not explain the non-work friend suggestions.
    I have never used friend finder on either account.

    • AriesGDIM

      I would agree with you on that Seventh7son. Once I set up my dummy account with no connections I would get a few friend suggestions to friends from my permanent account. Once I included my phone number for verification every friend I have on my permanent account has been suggested to me. So that just goes to say… do verify your phone if you don’t have to.

      And as I always say… if you want to keep your information private and don’t want friend suggestions just don’t get on Facebook period.

  • Sara Jones11

    face book suggested 2 friends that I have never heard of, the friends had no conection to my friends or had any mutual friends in common, are these people that have been looking at my profile if they are then it will soon be obvious if we had a stalker as they will be recommended to us

    • AriesGDIM

      Is there a chance that someone else has been on your computer using it to log on Facebook via their own accounts. I have sons and a daughter who at times will use my computer. I believe that the common IP address may also be a factor in how friends are suggested too. Also remember what I said in my blog above. You never know who your friends might be friends with or have in their phone or email contacts that they never added as friends on Facebook. That information factors in as well. There are so many scenarios.

  • maridee

    i enjoyed reading this very much. however, i have a question on the other end – what if i want facebook to suggest my page to someone in particular? how can i make facebook suggest that person to me and me to that person on their page, so that person sees me on their page as a person they may know?

    • AriesGDIM

      I think the best way to do that is just to send a friend request. :-)

  • Belgrave

    I had 2 people suggested in ‘people you might know’ – both of them were virtual strangers whom I had briefly contacted elsewhere online. One I had messaged a question to through ebay’s messaging system and then exchanged an email with them in Yahoo. The other was a fellow member on a forum I belonged to, whom I had only communicated with once through the forum’s private messaging. Nothing in my facebook email address or user name was connected to my ebay user details or the forum. Where did Facebook find my connection to these 2 people – by trawling through my ebay messages or my Yahoo mail? Disturbing indeed.

    • AriesGDIM

      If you used your yahoo to search for friends via Facebook then most likely. I know I have yahoo set to automatically save email addresses if I reply to a sender or send out an email to a new address.

      You may also want to consider that these people added you to their contact lists and if their contact list is linked to Facebook via their phone or email the suggestion came from them and not you.

  • Dear Drooper

    thanks, but i have never used Friend Finder and yet I still keep getting old work contacts from around the world being suggested as friends to me by FB. I really don’t want them getting the same suggestion and thinking the might invite me as a friend.
    I don’t want them to even know i am on FB.

    • AriesGDIM

      In the blog above I also mentioned that Facebook uses email contacts of others to find you as well. For Instances, lets say you befriended “jimmy and gina” from work and they have your personal email address and you use that address to set up your account or they have your phone number and you validated your account with that same number. Facebook will suggest friends based on their email lists/phone contacts synced to Facebook even though you never used “Friend Finder” yourself. If you don’t want to be found on Facebook remove your profile from search in your account settings. I also give directions above on how to tweak your privacy settings to keep people from seeing you or having you suggested as a friend. I hope this helps.

  • B

    It is very scary indeed. I have only a “fake” FB acct, with an email address that would never be used by anyone. And no phone number. Yet contacts I’ve emailed are suggested to me. People I used to email at a school are suggested. I have no idea how they would get a hold of any contacts, but it sure seems they have! I wonder if my fictitious acct shows up as suggestions to people I do know…

    • AriesGDIM

      Sorry for taking so long to respond. The ghost account I set up was suggesting friends from my real account so I would assume they were receiving the fictitious friends you may know request from my fake account as well. It is best to remove all your contact information from Facebook if you don’t want people to find that account. If possible only log on at the library and don’t use your home pc.

  • daniel

    I think the people who had viewed my page is also a source of the friend suggestion, because sometimes when I viewed a page of a stranger, he/she will appear on my friend suggestions sometimes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ernest.michalowski Ernest Michałowski

    Hi, my friends told me that the”friends you may know” is connected with visiting ours profiles by that people from the list.
    Could it be true..?
    Also I gotta tell you that they were testing it, they were visiting theirs profiles each other, also fake accounts, so they could see how the list got change..

    • AriesGDIM

      I am not sure exactly what you are asking but I will say that when I tested a ghost profile I did notice it suggested some friends I currently had on my real profile so I think your IP Address has something to do with it as well.

      • JN

        I’m curious about this question too. If someone visits my page are they then likely to appear as a “friends you may know”?

        • AriesGDIM

          Thanks for your question JN. According to what Facebook says a person visiting your page should not constitute them popping up as friends you may know. Only some sort of relationship either via your facebook friends and their friends or other similarities in your connections/contacts uploaded from your phone or email contacts.

          If you have been finding something different please let us all know.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/saba.rehman1 Saba Rehman

    hi, I have just bought an android phone, and the facebook app is showing friends from my contact list. But i don’t have some of them in my contact list or my email contacts…how do i find out where facebook is finding these contacts ?

    • AriesGDIM

      When I purchased my android phone I sync my social media accounts to my phone. Depending on your phone if you have done this then all your FB, Google and Twitter contacts or friends will be added to your phone. I have 3 different Google accounts and when I logged into to each of these accounts on my phone the Google contacts were added to my phone. I hope this answered your questions.

  • Mad Banana

    Just to you all know how smart Facebook is since is it an intelligent software the suggested friends comes from people who are actually searching and viewing your fb account frequently. Yes this is very true!! one more thing facebook suggests people from those included in private messages and this is why you find suggested friends where no mutual friends connecting you!!! I am happy to know this by chance. welcome to the computer world :)

    • urban goebel

      Perhaps Facebook recommends ‘friends’ to us depending upon who is looking at our facebook page, but that is not the case for me. For me all the recommended friends are NOT viewing my facebook page, since I use a fake name on facebook, and the friends are all friends of my wife and son. Facebook has been getting them from our one-digit-different IP numbers.
      It really freaked me out when I first created the facebook account with a fake name and no info other than my cell phone number. When facebook recommended 30 people I might know and I DID know 29 of them I was stunned.
      But it was the LACK of information that made facebook use similar IP numbers.
      As soon as I added what college I went to, the recommended friends were all people I do not know.
      It seems like you jumped to conclusions about the names being scoured out of private email messages. That is paranoia ( like I had when it first happened). There has to be a better explanation. If what you say is true, we would have so many examples of people like me who created very private accounts but Facebook still got real life friends names to recommend to us out of private emails. It is not true.

    • AriesGDIM

      Thanks for Sharing Mad Banana.

      • AriesGDIM

        Urban Goebel I did the same thing. I set up a fake account with a fake name and did not include my cell phone number or anything and as it did with you… Facebook started suggesting friends from my real account and those of my son who also uses the same computer to access Facebook. I would totally agree that IP Addresses have a huge impact on what friends are suggested to you if there is no other information included on an account that can connect users.

  • zohaib

    bhai log add me plzzzzzzz

  • joe

    hello

    Does anyone know, when you suggest a friend to someone on Facebook, do both people see the suggestion? thanks

  • Zyad

    Hi, if somebody is visiting my profile too frequently and we have no mutual friends.. will this person appear in “friends you may know”??

  • LegendSette Sette

    I want to delete the post “People You May Know taggato on my page “home” impose such presence it’s undemocratic

  • coelodonta

    I have had a friend suggestion for someone I don’t have any contact details for but know that he was in the same very remote location at around the same time as me. we share no friends in common or even friends of friends. I suspect that we could have both posted photos to facebook of the same area around the same date using iPhone cameras with GPS – maybe FB are using the metadata from the photos to link us.

    • AriesGDIM

      If you have GPS on your phone and you use it to post images and actually connect those images to Facebook “Places” I wouldn’t doubt that you would get friends in common. If you don’t want friends you don’t know connecting with you please take the advice given above and also turn your GPS off on your cell phone.

      I’m not sure if you have noticed but now Facebook will let you know the friends you have that are “close by” when you are using Facebook on your cell phone or mobile devices. That can be a bit creepy depending on your need for privacy.

  • Shahid Afridi