A lot of people are creeped out by Facebook right now — because folks are getting friend suggestions that are a little too familiar.
Here's what happened to my wife:
- Facebook suggests she friends 3 of our neighbors.
- She has never given our address on Facebook or connected to those neighbors in any way.
- She has never given Facebook access to her contact lists or email accounts.
Her assumption: Facebook was secretly scanning her Outlook and identifying people she received email from. Invasive, scary, and infuriating.
But…it never actually happened.
Those friends uploaded their contact lists, my wife was on it, so Facebook assumed they were friends.
Here's the problem: Facebook did nothing technically wrong. They didn't steal data or violate privacy. They actually did a great job of matching people who know each other.
But they did it too well, and it's freaking people out. This leads to anger, fear — and legislation. And it's not the first time Facebook has walked into this mess by being insensitive to the perceptions of its users.
Engineers: Just because you can build something doesn't mean you should.
Executives: It's not about whether something is allowable. It's about whether something is acceptable — Your users get to decide, not you.
(P.S. Facebook: You could fix this with a little link next to the suggestions that explains how this works, and give people the option to opt-out. Information fixes fear. You'll make it worse if you bury it in the fine print; that will confirm suspicions that you have something to hide.)