You can now track how Facebook recommends new friends through its creepy ‘People You May Know’ feature.
A free tool lists every person Facebook suggests you know to help you uncover how the platform uses your personal information.
People You May Know (PYMK) has frequently left Facebook users unnerved by its ability to find familiar faces with no mutual connections on the social network.
In August, a user said the feature had suggested her long-lost great aunt as a friend, despite the two having never met or contacted one another.
Now, Gizmodo has created a ‘PYMK Inspector’ to find out how Facebook makes these seemingly impossible connections.
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You can now track how Facebook recommends new friends through its creepy People You May Know feature. A free tool lists every person Facebook suggests you know to help you track how the platform uses your personal information (stock image)
HOW TO USE THE PYMK TRACKER
1) Download the app installer on a Mac computer. The software does not work on a smartphone or non-Mac PC.
2) Once downloaded, open the installer and copy the ‘PYMK Inspector’ app to your Applications folder
3) Go to your Applications folder and open the app. It should appear in your task bar.
4) Go to Inspector settings and enter your Facebook login details. Gizmodo says it will not store your credentials or your PYMK data.
5) You can test the app by clicking on ‘Run it now’.
While Facebook claims PYMK mainly uses uploaded contacts, mutual friends, and shared schools, hometowns or jobs to find potential friends, it says the feature uses many other types of information, too.
It has previously emerged that Facebook can suggest ‘friends’ who are close by based on your phone’s location, as well as through shared contacts and facial recognition from photographs.
Some have suggested the social network uses IP addresses people have signed in on, or Wi-Fi networks they have both used, to link profiles – though this has not been confirmed.
By helping people follow their Facebook friend suggestions, experts at Gizmodo hope to uncover more about how PYMK works.
Journalist Kashmir Hill wrote: ‘Since Facebook won’t discuss the input it uses, the alternative is to study the output it produces: To track your friend suggestions and see how they change from day to day.
‘By looking at recommendations or patterns of recommendations, it’s possible to find connections that Facebook’s public explanations won’t cover and to try to figure out how they happened.
‘We’re inviting you to join us in the research. If you’re curious about how Facebook is tracking your own connections, please download the tool and start studying your own results.’
People You May Know (PYMK) has frequently left Facebook users unnerved by its ability to find familiar faces with no mutual connections on the social network (stock image)
FACEBOOK FRIEND SUGGESTIONS
In its online guidelines, Facebook states that People You May Know suggestions come from mutual friends, as well as people in the same Facebook groups as you.
Other factors that can influence suggestions include your networks, for example your school, university or work, and contacts you’ve uploaded.
Facebook says more than 100 ‘signals’ go into making the recommendations, and that no one signal alone can trigger a friend suggestion.
It has previously emerged that Facebook suggests ‘friends’ based on your phone’s location, shared contacts, and facial recognition from photographs.
Some have suggested the social network uses IP addresses people have signed in on, or Wi-Fi networks they have both used, to link profiles.
Once you have downloaded the PYMK inspector, which currently only works on Mac computers, open the installer and copy the app to your Applications folder.
From here, go to your Applications folder and open the app, which should then appear in your task bar.
Go to Inspector settings and enter your Facebook login details. You can test the app works by clicking on ‘Run it now’.
Gizmodo says all account credentials and PYMK data is stored on your computer, and cannot be accessed by the outlet’s staff.
Once running through your Facebook profile, the tool checks your ‘People You May Know’ suggestions every six hours and saves that information to your computer.
This allows you to review who has appeared there, when Facebook suggested them, and how often the platform recommends certain profiles.
Ms Hill wrote: ‘Facebook is constantly watching you. Now, you can watch Facebook back.’