Wednesday 21 February 2018
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Data Mining Highlights Facebook’s ‘Nearby Friends’


That new feature on your Facebook app allows for location sharing with friends and a whole lot of data mining for marketing purposes.

Facebook rolled out its location-sharing feature, “Nearby Friends“, on Friday, April 18, adding a powerful new data mining weapon to its massive arsenal of data mining tools. Nearby Friends allows mobile app users to share their exact location with Facebook friends and also notifies when a friend is within the general vicinity. The feature may be turned on or off.

Through Nearby Friends’ “Location History” log, a detailed account of the user’s movement unfolds and points to a stockpile of data being cultivated by Facebook on its users.

More Data Mining For Marketing

As reported by Josh Constine of, Facebook admitted that, although the data is not currently being used for marketing, it eventually would be. Such location-sharing data could be a gold mine for advertisers targeting push-notifications to potential consumers as they wander by, say, a retail store. Constine also goes on to write that Facebook acknowledged even with the setting turned off, data is still collected as it always has in the case of location-tagging during status updates. Facebook’s data vacuum expands dramatically with Nearby Friends.

Separate from data collection, Nearby Friends can be a pretty sweet feature, offering Facebook users a built-in “FourSquare” location feature when they want to know where their friends are. But the reality is that Facebook’s motivation when rolling out any feature, as always, is data mining and collection, because their revenue and business model are based on knowing everything about all of us.

Today they sell marketing analyses of our individual and collective behaviors, they predict the length of our relationships, and they work hand-in-hand with the data brokers of the world to identify the most valuable data they need on us.  Where we are and what we are doing minute-by-minute is the new data scraping prize. While location data mining is nothing new, consumer awareness of the vast implications of this privacy-intruding technology is just beginning.

iPhone Data Mining Discovery of 2011

In 2011, scientists Pete Warden and Alasdair Allen found a similar feature built into the iPhone while conducting nonrelated research. Three years ago, The Guardian blew the lid off this story where these two researchers accidentally stumbled across this secret function hoarding massive amounts of location data. Once transferred to a computer via ubiquitous software, the data is easily mapped out with almost pinpoint predictive accuracy.

Even in 2011, privacy advocates feared such information could provide a detailed account of someone’s daily activity, which could speculatively be used should the data land in the wrong hands. Today this fear is being realized, and we encourage Facebook members to open their eyes to the reality of how Facebook sees them: as products for data brokers and advertisers.

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