Update 6/28/16: Facebook has backtracked and said that it does not use location data. The confusion supposedly arose when Facebook tested a location-based People You May Know feature, but that test had ended.
In case there was ever doubt, it’s not a coincidence that after a night at the bar, someone you met there pops up in your Facebook “people you may know” the next morning.
Facebook has confirmed that it takes location data into account when making friend suggestions, though location data would is not the only criterion.
“People You May Know are people on Facebook that you might know,” a spokesperson told Fusion in a glorious bit of techspeak, adding that things like mutual friends and work information are also taken into account.
Facebook is already using your phone’s location data to see which stores you go into, so really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Creeped out, yes, surprised, no. But while that location data doesn’t suss out individuals, this use of location data—which ties to individual people’s profiles, which usually have pictures—could be tricky and lead to an invasion of privacy. One person started suspecting that location data was used after he attended an anonymous meeting for parents of suicidal teens. The next morning, someone else from the anonymous meeting showed up in his feed. This same scenario could be happening when it comes to addiction recovery groups or any scenario where anonymity is important to make people feel safe.
So yes, this is another thing to worry about. You can lock down your Facebook privacy settings all you want, but it might be a good idea to be mindful of location services too anytime you would rather forget who you’re about to run into.