Is Facebook being shady, or is it just me?
June 1, 2009 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Facebook gives you the option of looking through your private email contacts (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) to see if you're not connected to them through the social networking site yet. Why are they keeping my login information on hand?

I have, on more than one occasion, used this method of trying to connect with people, but I don't recall ever checking a box or having received notice that FB would keep this email login information on file. In fact, the page specifically says "We won't store your password or contact anyone without your permission." However, I logged in this morning and found that my friends suggestions was filled with people who are in my Gmail contacts but with whom I have no other connection on Facebook. Trying to find information about this in FB's help section has proven fruitless, they seem to be impossible to contact directly, and doing a quick Google search hasn't turned anything else like this up.

What's going on? Is Facebook keeping my username and password information and doing shady stuff with my email?
posted by scarykarrey to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
It is possible that once you originally upload all your (for example) gmail contacts to facebook, as you said you did, then those contacts remain on facebook's servers, and if people join facebook using one of those addresses, then facebook will 'recommend' them as a friend to you -- this is certainly what linkedin does. So they may not be doing anything shady, nor keeping your password, but just holding onto the original list you provided them.
posted by modernnomad at 10:51 AM on June 1, 2009

Best answer: Most likely they pulled down a complete list of your gmail contacts when you gave them access, and didn't flush it just because you didn't immediately friend all of them. Try adding someone new to your gmail contacts; I bet facebook wont' mention them at all. This is almost certainly not "doing shady stuff with your email."
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:52 AM on June 1, 2009

Best answer: This happened to me, too. I figure they took a copy of the address book the one time and as people sign up (and now match my contact list), so they're presented as people I might want to befriend.

If I recall correctly, I didn't trust facebook with my username/password, so did a manual export of my addressbook and gave them that instead, precluding the possibility that they're polling for new data as you may have suspected.
posted by devbrain at 10:52 AM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: FYI, these are all people who have been on FB for quite some time, and have simply never been suggested to me before (outside of when I used the site to search my contacts previously, more than 6 months ago).
posted by scarykarrey at 10:54 AM on June 1, 2009

Are they all friends of a mutual friend? The one and only time I logged in to find a bunch of friend suggestions, a mutual friend had done something to trigger it.
posted by chez shoes at 11:22 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a rule of thumb for the interwebs and especially social networking sites it is not a good idea to provide them with information that you wouldn't give to a complete stranger. Anything you put on the internet has the potential to exist in some form permanently and even sites that store information with the best of intentions can have said information commandeered.

Intermixing account login information is really tricky in its own right. All it takes is one Facebook application developer to find some kind of programmatic loophole, unearth your Gmail login information that was stored without your knowledge for future use, sell it to someone else or use it maliciously, and poof! all your deep-darks splayed open for all to see.
posted by Gainesvillain at 11:24 AM on June 1, 2009

Giving your password out to anyone is a horrible idea, and the companies that encourage you to do it are quite shameful. Facebook is on the edge, but some of these companies, if you give them your gmail password, they will then spam every single person in your contacts, trying to get them to sign up as well.

If you really want to import your contacts, it only takes a little extra work to do it without giving them the keys to your house. Basically you go to gmail, export your contacts to a file, then go to facebook, and import your contacts.
posted by davr at 11:27 AM on June 1, 2009

Same thing here!

I rarely log into Facebook and the exact same thing happened to me when I logged in this morning. I don't remember ever giving permission to check my email address book. One of my suggestions was a boss from years ago that I know is not a friend or even knows anyone I am friends with. I'm clueless how it happened but it seems to only be my gmail contacts and not other address from my other accounts.
posted by RobGF at 12:21 PM on June 1, 2009

Maybe you are in their Gmail contacts, they recently uploaded their contacts list and did not friend you?

FYI, these are all people who have been on FB for quite some time, and have simply never been suggested to me before
But maybe they only recently became friends with more than one of your friends.
posted by soelo at 12:32 PM on June 1, 2009

I've noticed of late (as, the past week or so) more and more friend suggestions of people I don't know or know only barely. I think what's happening is that Facebook is expanding its criteria for how it recommends friends. For example, a friend was recommended to me with whom I suspect I share only one mutual friend. Or it's possible they're mining our data to make friends suggestions, and just basically guessing.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:43 PM on June 1, 2009

I know I'm stating the obvious here, but if you're worried about this, you can change your Gmail password which would prevent any further access to your account (assuming these details were stored in the first place).
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 1:17 PM on June 1, 2009

Are you sure you gave your Gmail credentials to Facebook, rather than logging into a page Facebook sent you to at Gmail to authorize them to give Facebook some kind of access token that may still be valid?
posted by nicwolff at 1:36 PM on June 1, 2009

I was completely surprised about 6 months ago when LinkedIn suggested i might know the woman who cuts my hair and the chef at my favorite Sushi place. I assumed that I'd must have been experimenting with some single-sign-on service and hadn't realized that I'd given linked in access to my gmail address book. I actually wrote a message to one of them apologizing until I realized that the more likely issue is that they both had recently let LinkedIn import their address book.

It's entirely possible that Facebook decided to use information cached when you used this feature before without reaccessing your account, but the other likely explanation is that a couple of your these people recently allowed Facebook access to their address books. It's also possible that Facebook has updated their friend suggestion algorithm in a way that makes it more likely to make these inferences accurately.
posted by Good Brain at 1:54 PM on June 1, 2009

Change your password.. and yeah, it's a terrible idea to give it to these places. You seriously trust facebook?
posted by cj_ at 2:20 AM on June 2, 2009

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