Here's how Facebook keeps track of who you are stalking

Here's how Facebook keeps track of who you are stalking

Summary: Whenever you search for someone on Facebook, the social network seems to order your friends in a very specific way. It turns out the company is paying close attention to who you are Facebook stalking.

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While searching for ways to make the search auto-complete faster on his own website, developer Jeremy Keeshin looked to Facebook, which does this very quickly indeed. Keeshin accidentally stumbled on a file called first_degree.php, which reveals that Facebook has a ranking for the people whom you search for on the social network.

Keeshin wrote a bookmarklet for your browser that presents you with a list of people you search for most often on Facebook. This is the data that Facebook uses to predict who you're searching for when you type names into the search field.

To install the bookmarklet yourself, go to TheKeesh and drag the image or the text link "Facebook Friends" (the image didn't work for me on Chrome but it might for you) to your bookmarks bar. Then go to Facebook and click on the bookmarklet you've just installed.

The list contains your Facebook friends' names and the ranking Facebook has assigned to each one based on how you interact with them on the social network. The names at the top are those whom you search and interact with most often – the more negative the number associated with a given Facebook friend, the more you've been Facebook stalking them.

The bookmarklet works by creating a script element on the page and grabbing a JavaScript file from Keeshin's blog. This file in turn makes a request to the first_degree.php file with the correct parameters, and then displays the results formatted on your page.

The ranking algorithm is based on multiple metrics. Here are a few I came up with off the top of my head: whose Facebook profile you look at, whose Facebook Wall you post on, whose Facebook statuses and other postings you comment on, who you Facebook Chat with, who you are in the same Facebook Group with, who you attend Facebook Events with, and so on.

When you do any of these things, you are only influencing your own search results on Facebook. It's only a one-way street: nobody else can see this data unless they are logged into your Facebook account and run the script.

I've contacted Facebook to find out more about the file in question. Let's see how Facebook reacts and how long Keeshin's bookmarklet will continue to work for.

Update: "The information this bookmarklet provides can already be found in a number of places in the logged-in experience," a Facebook spokespersons said in a statement. "For example, it's used to rank the stories you see in News Feed or to suggest friends when you start typing a name for a tag. Only you can see it when logged in to your own account, and the list is determined by your behavior, and not by anyone else's. We recommend that people not run this kind of third-party javascript while logged in to Facebook, as it could enable a malicious party to hijack their Facebook session and take actions without their permission."

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Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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4 comments
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  • RE: Here's how Facebook keeps track of who you are stalking

    it didn't work for me, then I turned off ssl browsing
    Nathan C
  • Govt Social Networks

    Facebook et al, are merely databases that the govt combs for new evil thugs to add to their long lists... Reminds one of the secret police during Dr Zhavago's stay in a room in what used to be his family's home after the Russian revolution was on.
    The revolutionary bigwigs carved up the city in an effort to make everyone the same, which they weren't of course, and self-righteous policeman would walk around sticking their noses into everything, writing peoples names down to terrorize them.
    Does any of this so far sound remotely familiar?
    TerrifiedCitizen
  • Why would anyone have a Facebook page?

    http://ed-strong.com/cia-venture-capital-fund-in-q-tel-involved-in-facebook

    http://www.brainsturbator.com/articles/facebook_the_cia_and_you/

    Facebook's own Terms and Conditions:
    "By posting Member Content to any part of the Web site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorpoate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorize sublicenses of the foregoing."

    InQTel is the CIA's venture capital partner. They invested millions in Facebook. From their own mission statement:

    "In-Q-Tel is the strategic investment firm that works to identify,
    adapt, and deliver innovative technology solutions to support
    the missions of the Central Intelligence Agency and broader U.S.
    Intelligence Community."

    http://www.iqt.org/mission/our-aim.html

    http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread291893/pg1
    http://cryptogon.com/?p=13749

    Besides, if everyone's on Facebook, how is it special?
    Hatestone Johnson
  • RE: Here's how Facebook keeps track of who you are stalking

    Friending Facebook
    Emil Protalinski The story is good , it's just the issue is stupid , all the newbies to the computer generation think they are going to make this epic post an the library of congress is going to see it , and come running to get the magical text to a museum. the pubes are Rtards like if you have a conversation running an a friends icon pops up , you say high in the stream an the pube is like why did you post that on my stream ? . Facebook is a scrapbook of crap
    iguanaware