How Facebook chooses your ‘recommended friends’

Yes, stalking is a factor

You’re on a night out and you meet someone at the bar. The next day – with not even a phone number exchanged – there they are, in your “recommended friends” section on Facebook. Your Aunt (who you share no mutuals friends with) is sat underneath them. That person you’ve been successfully avoiding from uni? Right up the top.

Recently, Facebook has attracted some suspicion over the eerie timing of the people cropping up. “Are they reading my emails?”, the civil libertarians cry, “listening to my conversations? Filming me via my camera?”. Unlikely.

It benefits Facebook for our social nets to cast far and wide, to increase their social advertising and attract more people to join. There’s a reason they acquired Octazen – a contact importing tech company – and others like WhatsApp (for a mere $19billion) amongst 59 data and communications companies.

Facebook says: “To make it easier for your friends to find you, we allow anyone with your contact information (such as email address or telephone number) to find you through the Facebook search bar at the top of most pages, as well as other tools we provide, such as contact importers – even if you have not shared your contact information with them on Facebook.”

The recommended friends function is based on one of Facebook’s many mysterious, complex and ever-changing algorithms, however this info is kept under strict lockdown. So we have trawled Facebook forumstech sites and blogs to gather together the educated guesses on the things that influence your recommended friends:

Having mutual friends

The greater the number of mutual friends you have with someone, the more likely they are to be on your recommended friends.

Network affiliation

This could be your school, university, workplace or city.

People you search for

Otherwise known as “stalking”.

People who search for you

Otherwise known as “being stalked”.

Group affiliation

Like both being part of the same “Dogspotting” group, “Cool Dog Group”, “Coolest Dog”, etc.

Attending the same event – both online and offline

If you click attending on the same event, Facebook will log this. There has also been speculation that this includes geolocation, as opposed to just clicking attending on Facebook.

Being tagged in a friend’s photo or album with them

Even if you aren’t in the same picture, if you are tagged in the same album as someone they could crop up in your recommended friends.

Friends on connected social media accounts

Such as Instagram (which Facebook owns) and Whatsapp (which facebook owns), amongst others.

Email addresses and phone numbers from your mobile contacts

If you use the Facebook mobile app it allows access to your contacts. This means, the guy or gal whose number you drunkenly thumbed into your phone last night after four too many tequilas? You’re probably going to see each other’s faces on your news feeds.

Opting to upload your email contacts by temporarily providing Facebook your login and password to an email account

When you sign up, Facebook will ask you if you’d like to use your email contacts to find friends.

Being in someone else’s phone and email contacts

Weirdly, this is also likely to make that person’s profile appear in your recommended friends – even if you haven’t got them saved.

Friends of people you have blocked

A more sinister and unconfirmed factor in recommended friends is that when you block someone, their friends emerge.

The ‘social graph’ – how everyone is connected

Kartik Solanki, a Master’s student at University of South Florida, Management Information Systems, says: “Facebook does not randomly suggest friends. It has a very clever algorithm that does the job. Facebook is a savvy data miner. If you have not listed your high school information but if any of your family member or friends listed them then they would automatically suggest you members from that high school, Facebook’s scrupulous data crawler will make the connection.

“For Whatsapp contacts, Facebook uses your contacts in mobile phone to suggest you the friends which are on Facebook with those contact numbers. Facebook uses whole of your contact lists, email IDs, or all the data stored on your mobile phone to get you suggest you the friends based on that data. Facebook does some amazingly intelligent stuff to infer who you know by what you do on Facebook”.