Facebook denies tracking location info in smartphones to suggest friends

Facebook has denied using location data to recommend friends to users and says it recommends friends on the basis of mutual friends, work and educational information.

Facebook's denial comes in response to reports alleging that it tracks the location of users' smartphones to suggest friends.

A website named Fusion on net recently published a report titled 'Facebook is using your phone’s location to suggest new friends—which could be a privacy disaster' in which it outlined how Facebook accesses phone locations to offer up 'People You May Know' suggestions. The report says that Facebook initially confirmed the allegations before denying it.

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'Thanks to tracking the location of users’ smartphones, the social network may suggest you friend people you’ve shared a GPS data point with, meaning your friend suggestions could include someone whose face you know, but whose name you didn’t until Facebook offered it up to you,' says the report.

The report further revealed that apart from mutual friends, work and education information, Facebook uses other factors to suggest friends like location information. “Location information by itself doesn’t indicate that two people might be friends. That’s why location is only one of the factors we use to suggest people you may know,” said a Facebook spokesperson earlier.

While such friend suggestions will help you get in touch with people you met in the recent past, they may also make your profile visible to those with whom you might not be comfortable sharing your details. Last year, the report claims, questions were asked on how Facebook could find out who people went on Tinder dates with, and the most plausible answer to that is location information.

Facebook's latest take on the allegation is that it is unfounded. "We're not using location data, such as device location and location information you add to your profile, to suggest people you may know. We may show you people based on mutual friends, work and education information, networks you are part of, contacts you've imported and other factors," it said.

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Earlier this month, Facebook was forced to respond after The Independent published a story about a professor at the University of South Florida who tested a feature in Facebook that uses microphones in phones to listen to nearby conversations. Kelly Burns, the professor in question, said that a tool in Facebook which works with microphones is being used by Facebook to listen to conversations and to target relevant advertising.

"Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed. Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true," said Facebook in a blog post. " We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about."

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