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Facebook has made three friend suggestions who are not related to me in any way except that I had added them to my phone contacts at some point.

Did Facebook make these suggestions because they stole my phone contacts or for some other reason?

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  • Questions about Facebook's mobile apps are off topic on Web Applications SE. If you advise whether you are using IOS or Android we will migrate this to the appropriate site (IOS: Ask Different, Android: Android Enthusiasts
    – Blindspots
    Mar 2 at 19:52
  • I’m voting to close this question because it belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network. OP needs to respond.
    – Blindspots
    Mar 5 at 2:26

1 Answer 1

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The Facebook app cannot access your phone contacts without consent. Normally you get a pop-up when first launching the Facebook app where it asks you if you want to allow it to use your contacts. This also applies to other apps developed by Meta like Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, ...

If you allow contacts in one of these apps it is possible that Meta can link your accounts from their different platforms to build a virtual profile about you and use neural networks to analyse the data collected about you on all Meta platforms to recommend things that might get your interest, like people you know based on your location, friends of your friends, contacts, things you have viewed in the apps and so forth.

There is a new law in the EU that requires all companies like Meta and Google to ask you for permission before linking accounts from different platforms together. You might have had a pop-up asking if you want to keep for example Messenger and Facebook connected, or if you want to split the accounts to block Meta from sharing collected data between the platforms. Same applies to for example Google and YouTube accounts.

Facebook is not stealing contact information without consent. Even if they wanted to, both iOS and Android have the functionality to block apps from reading your contacts. This option can be found in settings for both platforms and they should also ask you for permission at least once before they can access contact information. None of your personal data is manually analyzed by humans, it's all handled by neural networks and algorithms that are very good at their job of finding patterns in human behaviour and finding connections between accounts.

If you blocked contacts access for all Meta apps or even blocked Meta from connecting your profiles on different platforms, it's also possible that the algorithm found a connection between you and the people you know some other way. An example could be: You and your friend went to a bar and both connected to the same WiFi network, Facebook noticed you both were on the same IP address and the algorithm saw this and thought you might be related.

The conclusion is that there is no real way to know exactly how it got recommended but there is also no real reason to worry about it. You have full control over what Facebook and Meta "know" about you, if you don't want them to know anything you can avoid creating an account or visiting their platforms at all. My argument to not care about what they know about you is that no human and no Meta employee will be manually looking at your data. This would be impossible with the amount of users they have. They only have data you provide them, the algorithms are just very good at finding those connections with the limited info they have about you.

The big corporations are also legally required to follow GDPR. They won't use your data for anything else than try to make the experience easier for you so you spend more time using their services.

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    I have a hunch, that the other person(s) might have accepted to have their contacts accessed by Facebook. Facebook then uses this information to suggest it. In relation to GDPR Facebook might say that they follow it, but it seems as they are going to the very edge of what is legal and often also across because they know it will take many years before a decision is made in a court.
    – JenserCube
    Mar 2 at 20:41
  • Private companies always follow the rules and never violate privacy! </sarcasm> Don't forget the Uber God View Controversy Mar 3 at 15:27

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