Facebook’s People You May Know mystery has finally been revealed at least according to the 250 pages’ worth of Facebook documents published by a UK parliamentary committee, including e-mails sent between its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and other senior executives at the social media giant company. The files were gotten by the UK authorities about a week ago in a legal battle between Facebook and US Software company Six4Three over developer access to user data.
Here’s why your co-worker who you have no mutual friends with is suddenly a recommended friend
Facebook’s business and growth teams are all to blame – mostly the growth team. In 2015, when Facebook’s Android app was due for an update, the business and the growth team had different intentions as to what data they could collect from users. The goal of the business team was to get Bluetooth permissions so that Facebook could push ads to people. The other team in charge of increasing the daily and monthly active users were like – hold my beer. This team wanted to get permissions to read your phone’s call log. This way the social giant company could know who you texted so to make its “People You Know” suggestions better and that’s why Michael from HR appeared as a “Add Friend” suggestion or worse the guy you had a bad Tinder date with.
This was so creepy that it disgusted the team from the business side of Facebook. The growth team despite the PR disaster this would have caused went all in and did it. You also notice from the emails that Facebook only cared about its image and not the privacy blow-up this would bring for its users.
At that time, most Android apps had lax permission designs and you could sneak in updates without actually informing users what the exactly the update did. Facebook’s growth team took advantage of this loophole. The update wouldn’t let users know about the change in the permission dialog screen. Android’s negligent permission requests are also to blame since it took a while for us to realize this was happening and why the friend suggestions users got were sinisterly precise.
Early this year, when this was found out, Facebook cunningly said it was an opt-in feature for Android users of its Messenger and Facebook Lite apps. Facebook put the disclaimer but in a discrete small grey font and most people might have missed it. All this makes sense since early this year, the social media giant said it was going to delete call logs it had collected from more than a year ago. If this isn’t its way of saying you’ll now get friend suggestions from that person you texted this Monday who you have no mutual connections with, I don’t know.
Other Key Takeaways
Facebook didn’t charge developers for access to user data and wanted “full reciprocity” between them and developers – you share all your data on users with us, and we’ll share all of ours with you. This is so that the more developers build things using Facebook, the more people share back to Facebook.
Facebook’s revelation as a ruthless competitor – they used Onavo, a company they bought in 2013 to track people’s usage of mobile apps without user’s consent. This gave Facebook information about how many people had downloaded the apps and how often they used them to figure out which ones to buy if the social giant company deems a competitor. This is how Facebook bought WhatsApp and how Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg personally approved revoking its Twitter’s Vine access to Facebook’s API.
“This is a pretty high-risk thing to do from a PR perspective but it appears that the growth team will charge ahead and do it.”
This statement has got Facebook in a lot of trouble and this probably won’t be the last.