Bad Facebook cartography
August 14, 2016 7:46 AM   Subscribe

How do I get Facebook to update its location databases to put St Croix down here in the Atlantic where it actually is? I swear it is. I'm looking at it right now.

St Croix, one of the US Virgin Islands along with St Thomas and St John, is sometimes a frustrating place to be online. Few sites recognize the USVI as being within the United States, or even on planet Earth at all, because if we aren't a US state and we aren't a foreign country then we're segfault. The US postal system is happy to deliver here, as we have proper ZIP codes and carriers, but only if the web site we're buying from lets us enter our real address.

Facebook tells everyone we're in Connecticut or Florida.

I hit the buttons to report errors last year and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

How do we get Facebook to spend the few minutes so 00820 and related ZIP codes to show up in the Caribbean where they belong?
posted by jayCampbell to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In which uses of the site are you having problems? E.g. I just checked in via a status update, searched "00820" when looking for a location to add, and got an entity for a correctly-placed St Croix. I'm guessing there are some parts of the site that do not lead you to search for a location (entity) and make you enter a raw address?
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:46 AM on August 14, 2016

Response by poster: When you post via mobile with location turned on it says you're posting from Florida.
posted by jayCampbell at 8:55 AM on August 14, 2016

Best answer: The mobile location-detection is notoriously wrong and for some reason seems to lean on Internet backbone locations rather than GPS or anything else, at least in some circumstances. I live in Philadelphia - which you'd think would be a more clear-cut and "bigger" case than St Croix in terms of getting things right - and Facebook for years has insisted that my friends and I are in Camden, NJ, across the Delaware River. We aren't. But Facebook still insists we are, apparently because some Internet infrastructure is located there and it's using that as a location basis. It wouldn't surprise me at all if St Croix' internet path runs through Florida, and for the same reasons we're in Camden, you're supposedly in some data center or fiber interchange outside Miami. We've even complained about it to a friend who's a mid-ranking Facebook employee (though not in the tech side) and he promises us he's brought it to the appropriate team but it still goes wrong all the damn time.

Which is not actually an answer to your question, except to say this is not necessarily a St Croix issue per se so much as a larger "Facebook's mobile location detection process is surprisingly terrible" issue and some of us in enormous metropolitan mainland areas deal with it too.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:22 AM on August 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Facebook is using an IP geolocation service to guess your physical location based on your network address. The results are never any better than a guess, since a network provider might assign an address to customers in different locations at different times. Sometimes they are horribly wrong. If you can figure out which service(s) the wrong results come from, you can try sending them a data correction request.
posted by mbrubeck at 11:09 AM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Plug your IP address into Maxmind's GeoIP lookup and see where one of the big IP to location services thinks you are.
posted by zippy at 12:55 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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