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Facebook Somehow Found Out This Woman's Family Skeletons Through The 'People You May Know' Feature

Facebook Somehow Found Out This Woman's Family Skeletons Through The 'People You May Know' Feature

by Mikayla

Online sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Tumblr are so very common in our day to day lives these days you'd think you knew almost everything about how they work. A reporter for Gizmodo Media Group, a woman named Kashmir Hill, recently found out that we know far less about social media than anyone can imagine.

Just think about Facebook, and the 'People you may know' section. This can recommend hundred of people to you at any time, some of them could be friends from work, some from old times in school, but also people you see as strangers. That is exactly what happened to Kashmir when Facebook recommended someone who looked like a stranger but happened to have a very familiar name...

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This is Kashmir Hill

A suggested friend on Facebook ended up changed Hill's perspective on social media completely and got her wondering HOW exactly does social media know what and who to recommend to us?

Hill chose to write about her both strange and enlightening experience

She began the article with this:

“The People You May Know feature is notorious for its uncanny ability to recognize who you associate with in real life. It has mystified and disconcerted Facebook users by showing them an old boss, a one-night-stand, or someone they just ran into on the street,” said Hill.

True?

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Shes says Facebook can suggest around 160 people to her every day!

Sometimes it would suggest the same people over and over, but through out the course of one winter, it offered more than 1400 people she may have known. According to Hill around 200 of them (Or about 15%) were people she actually knew or recognized, the rest were strangers.

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So she was suggested around 1200 strangers over the course of only 3 months! People she thought she had nothing to do with at all until one name among the bunch stood out to her... 

The name of an older Ohio woman, Rebecca Porter. The face held no significance for Hill, and they had no mutual friends, but the name Porter was all too familiar.

What happened next can only be described as strange...

“My biological grandfather is a man I’ve never met, with the last name Porter, who abandoned my father when he was a baby. My father was adopted by a man whose last name was Hill, and he didn’t find out about his biological father until adulthood,” said Hill.

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Hill knew that the Porter family lived in Idaho, and thought there might be some connection.

“Growing up half a country away, in Florida, I’d known these blood relatives were out there, but there was no reason to think I would ever meet them,” she said

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All that thinking made her somewhat curious, so Hill sent Porter a Private Message

Hill asked Porter if she had any relation to her biological grandfather. The answer? YES!

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They soon figured out that Rebecca Porter was Kashmir Hill's aunt by marriage!

Out of over all of Facebook and over 1400 friend suggestions, Hill found the woman who was married to her biological grandfather's brother! They had no idea!

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Hill immediately got talking to Porter over the phone

“I didn’t know about you. I don’t understand how Facebook made the connection,” Porter told Hill. Hill said that, though she enjoyed the conversation with her newly discovered family member, the whole experience left her feeling a little disturbed. Wouldn't you feel the same!?

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So HOW did facebook make such a strange connection?

Hill said: "I was grateful that Facebook had given me the chance to talk to an unknown relation, but awed and disconcerted by its apparent omniscience," Although Hill’s father had met Porter’s husband once after her grandmother’s funeral, there was no Facebook presence for either of them, and they had only ever talked over email.

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In fact, they couldn't find any connection between them through Facebook AT ALL

So, of course, Hill was anxious to know more about the system that somehow linked her with her lost family, and reached out to Facebook for information. Unfortunately, all she got in return was a list of "privacy reasons" as to why they couldn't give her any of the information she was after. A dead end!?

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When you stop to think about it, we don't know anything about that feature of Facebook!

The only information Facebook has really released around the subject was this: “We are constantly iterating on the algorithm that we use to determine the Suggestions section of the home page. We do not share details about the algorithm itself,” Said by Facebooks then Cheif Privacy Offer, Chris Kelly, to Adweek.

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Does that change how YOU look at social media?

It may not be any different for you, but when Hill sees the People You May KNow tab now, her perspective has totally changed. she says: “I’m unnerved not just by seeing the names of the people I know offline, but by all the seeming strangers on the list,” said Hill. “How many of them are truly strangers, I wonder—and how many are connected to me in ways I’m unaware of. They are not people I know, but are they people I should know?”

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It's quite intimidating to think that social media websites can track what we do and who we are, but I suppose that is simply the way of the future! Sometimes secrets are best kept, though. This is especially true for those of us who may be renting a household and don't want our landlord finding out about the ten cats we have or the number of people living under the same roof. Take a look at these hilarious secrets people are hiding from their landlords.

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