How does Facebook personalize your newsfeed? With scary science


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I thought the answer was going to be (at least on the part of Facebook, as I haven’t had Twitter for a while) “Poorly”. :slight_smile:

“Scary science”? Quit fear-mongering, Xeni. It’s regular science, applied in an interesting and social way.


The nice thing about Twitter is this is an optional feature whereas on Facebook it is default.

I guess I must be doing something right because I rarely see anything on my Facebook feed other than annoying posts by my friends. Occasionally irrelevant ads will appear telling me someone I know likes Walmart but I’d hardly call that the result of “scary science”.

“On the Internet, of course, things should be personalized to your interests and the things you care about,” he says.

Yeah, why would anyone want to browse the Internet? What if the things that I care about are things that I didn’t know about or never knew existed? How am I going to stumble upon those if you’re force-feeding me stuff that you think I care about? I guess that doesn’t fit into your business model…

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It’s not force-feeding it to you: there are other places to go. You’re a beautiful and unique snowflake who has cool, independent interests. Most people go on the internet to catch up with their friends, and to engage with the same content as them. For many, social media is the watercooler where people talk about the movies or shows they saw last night.

It is a business, and a very profitable one. There are also businesses in helping you discover new and interesting content. For example,

(One might also argue that BoingBoing is doing just as much force-feeding a specific (and hypocritical) worldview as Facebook, but if one were to argue that their comment would probably be deleted).

What I find scary is that I have multiple Facebook accounts (none of which I post to, but that’s a story for another day), set up with different email addresses from different domains, and yet I constantly get “do you know” suggestions for someone who would be appropriate for (or even already friended on) Facebook A to Facebook B and C. In each case, the account is very specific in terms of interests, likes, and friends. There is no crossover. The only explanation I can think of is that they’re using IP addresses as their basis.

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Is it possible that those people have the email addresses you used for your various Facebook accounts in THEIR address books? I had something creepy like this happen, where FB recommended that I add my boss (despite me having ZERO connection to my work on my FB account… I don’t mention I work there, I don’t have any of my colleagues on my Facebook account, nothing), but my boss has my personal email somewhere in his various address books/contacts lists, one of which Facebook has access to, and voila.

Good question! But no, that’s part of the whole weirdness: these are separate identities with separate names, personal info, email addresses, and friend circles. There’s no overlap other than my IP address.

It could be a cookie thing, then.

I do my best: private windows, only allow Facebook cookies when I’m on Facebook and then turn them off again afterward, delete the tab/window after logging out just as I would for a financial site.

Anything else I should be doing?

Nope, it seems like you’re being pretty thorough. I guess Facebook is saying “Hey, looks like these users all logged in from the same IP address. Maybe they know each other, and maybe they know each other’s friends!”. But that would be a foolish thing to do, considering that people login from public computers all the time. Unless they only do it after a certain pattern of use shows up (ie, these X users always login from the same IP address as each other). I’m sure it is VASTLY complicated.

Yeah…nothing like a computer to keep on top of a myriad of nested commands long after any sane human would give up.

Thanks for your thoughts.

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