Facebook Knows Who Your Enemies Are

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(Helen A.S. Popkin)  Information on your Facebook profile via the social network’s Download Your Information feature now includes a full list of every person you’ve ever tried to friend – whether that person accepted your offer of Facebook friendship or not. And as Ars Technica points out, knowing who isn’t interested in being your Facebook friend can be just as valuable as knowing who is.

“Friend requests you’ve sent that have never been accepted, or vice versa, are an interesting form of data in and of themselves; they highlight relationship inequalities on a platform where friendship must, by default, be mutual,” writes Ars Technica’s Casey Johnston. “While a never-accepted friend request may just indicate unequal affections, two people with heavily overlapping social circles who are not friends with each other could suggest an active dislike — a piece of data that Facebook could track and use.”

(Facebook has not returned requests for comment.)

As we reported, Facebook announced additions to your available Facebook account history last week, a service it introduced in 2010. Previously, the Download Your Information featured allowed you go access your history of photos, posts, messages and a list of friends and chat conversations. The added info listed on the social network’sFacebook and Privacy page includes IP addresses where you’ve logged on and previous names you’ve used on the site, as as your Facebook friend requests (accepted or not).

“Big deal,” you may be thinking. “Who cares who I’m not friends with?” While Facebook is likely not obsessing on your rejections any more than you probably should be, it is another bit of vital information for Facebook’s social graph — a map of how everyone is connected. Using information on what you do (or don’t do) online, and who you do (or don’t do) it with, Facebook optimizes its service for you, third party developers, and of course, advertisers.

That’s what Sen. Al Franken D-Minn. was talking about in his recent speech for the American Bar Association’s Antitrust Section, when he said that “accumulating data about you isn’t just a strange hobby for (Facebook, as well as Google). It’s their whole business model. And you are not their client. You are their product.”