Facebook has been using its “Suggestions” area of the home page to recommend friends you may know for a while now (and more recently, suggested public profiles you may like). While Facebook has traditionally calculated its list of “People You May Know” by analyzing the social graph – choosing friends of friends, etc. – many users have started noticing this week that Facebook appears to be suggesting people not because they’re friends of friends, but because their contact records were imported using Facebook’s “Find People You Email” feature at some point in the past.
This apparent change in the Suggestions algorithm has some users concerned because, if those imported contacts were indeed stored, Facebook didn’t make it clear that they were doing so at the time. Facebook’s contact importer page says that “Facebook will not store your password,” but it doesn’t say whether or not Facebook retains imported contacts for future use.
When asked if Facebook is incorporating imported contacts into the Suggestions feature, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly told us, “We are constantly iterating on the algorithm that we use to determine the Suggestions section of the home page. We do not share details about the algorithm itself.”
Nevertheless, concerned users say they are “spooked” by the appearance of people they emailed years ago on their Facebook home page.
If Facebook is indeed storing imported contacts for the purposes of future friend suggestions, it should make that more clear. Because Facebook appears to only be using that information to make helpful friend suggestions, most users would not be concerned. Facebook generally has very high standards when it comes to user privacy, and not giving users the choice to not have their imported contacts saved isn’t worth “spooking” users who don’t want to see people they’ve emailed in the past showing up in their suggested friends list in the future.