Last year, I was trying to solve a mystery. Facebook’s “People You May Know” tool was outing sex workers’ real identities to their clients, and vice versa, and I was trying to figure out how. A sex worker using the pseudonym Leila told me she had gone to great lengths to hide her identity from clients by using an alternate name, alternate email address, and burner phone number—contact information she didn’t provide to Facebook—yet Facebook was still inextricably linking her with her clients, suggesting them to her real-name account as people she might want to friend.
Tagged With people you may know
Last year, we launched an investigation into how Facebook’s People You May Know tool makes its creepily accurate recommendations. By November, we had it mostly figured out: Facebook has nearly limitless access to all the phone numbers, email addresses, home addresses and social media handles most people on Earth have ever used.
That, plus its deep mining of people’s messaging behaviour on Android, means it can make surprisingly insightful observations about who you know in real life — even if it’s wrong about your desire to be “friends” with them on Facebook.
This morning, Facebook announced that it's going to start scanning all the photos uploaded to the social network looking for your face, unless you opt out - or unless you are a European or Canadian, where privacy law actually limits what Facebook can do with people's faces. The purpose of the scanning, according to Facebook, is to alert you if someone has publicly uploaded a photo of you that you don't know about, especially if they are trying to impersonate you.