Some observations on Facebook’s “Phonebook”

Facebook has a personal “Phonebook” for your account. A couple of people have seen this and thought “Oh my God, Facebook has information I never gave it”. I’m not so sure this is correct. As far as I can tell, the information there is a combination of information other people have added to their account plus information I have shared. Based on my observations, it appears the information they’re showing me is either

  • Phone numbers I already had
  • Phone numbers that my Facebook friends share with their friends
  • Phone numbers that people who aren’t Facebook friends share with the public
  • And in some cases, phone numbers I already had combined correlated with the FB profiles of people who have put their phone number in the protected part of their profile

I cannot find a single instance of it divulging a phone number to me from a stranger. But I can see why people might be a little surprised about that last part. I’m not.

I use a phone operating system, WebOS, that integrates all my contacts from Google, from information I imported from my old Palm Treo, from LinkedIn, and also information it downloads from Facebook. This is kind of cool, because when I get a phone call from a Facebook friend I get their Facebook profile picture showing up on the screen. It also means I don’t have to grovel through multiple sources to get all the information I know about somebody. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that some of that information made it up to Facebook. I can’t recall for sure, but I might have also used one of Facebook’s “Find your friends, upload your contacts” things. I’ve also set up various links between Google contacts and Apple Address Book and the like, so it’s damn near impossible to find where the data came from.

So here are some observations on what data they have, and what data they don’t have.

Case 1: My FB friend Dennis Mike was worried because when he looks at his phonebook, it shows his cell phone number which he doesn’t think he’s every shared with FB. I don’t have his phone number in my phone, and he doesn’t show in the FB Phonebook for me. So it’s not sharing his phone number with people who didn’t already have it, even FB friends.

Case 2: It shows my daughter’s phone number (which is information I already had) linked to my daughter’s FB profile with a “Add as friend” link. (She unfriended me a while ago, long story.) I assume that this is combining information I already had (her phone number) with information that Facebook got from her profile and decided “aha, this Facebook profile is a person you already know”. She may not be disclosing her phone number to non-friends, but FB decided that’s information I already have.

Case 3: It shows my brother’s phone number, but it’s not linked to his profile, in spite of the fact that we’re FB friends. I think that means that he never linked his phone to FB, and because his name on my phone is different than his name on FB (Dave versus David) it doesn’t manage to find the link.

Case 4: It shows a guy who I had some business dealings with, full name, linked to his Facebook profile with an “Add as a friend” link. In my phone, I have his number and his name as “Dave @ [company name]”. So I guess this is another example of FB correlating a phone number in my phone with a phone number that somebody put in the protected part of his profile.

I guess my point of this investigation is that Facebook has some information, and they’re able to do some correlations on this. What’s visible seems pretty innocuous, and it really does help you find the FB profiles of people you know. I see this feature as a good thing, both because of the way it helps you and because it gives you some insight into the sorts of correlations that it’s possible they’re doing behind your back and not exposing to the general public. As they say on Angry Mac Bastards, if a business isn’t charging you money, it’s because you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

The State of the Paul

I’ve had my surgery, and it was a rousing success. The doctor said that there was wear on the rotator cuff, but no actual tearing. He’s opened up the gap so that there is more room for the rotator cuff to move without wearing on the acromium(?). After the surgery, I was a little concerned that half my tongue was numb (although I could still taste with it), but that numbness is getting a little bit less every day and currently just involves about 2 millimeters of the tip of my tongue. Over the last two weeks since the surgery, I’ve been seeing less pain and more range of motion, although I’ve still got lots to recover. I start physio next week, and I’m going to do every exercise they give me, and then some. I got the doctor to sign the request for physio for both shoulders, so maybe I can stave off the same thing happening on the other side. I’ve also been approved for limited driving, although without being able to raise my arm very high it probably wouldn’t be good to go out in a snowstorm or long drives on the thruway just yet.

Obviously the good news has me re-evaluating my plans for this kayaking season. It’s going to take a while to get back into the shape I was in last year after 6 months completely off, and however long it takes me to regain full mobility. So I think I still have to consider the spring races a complete impossibility. I might be able to do some of the summer races, although I don’t think I’ll be competitive. But really, I think what I need and want most of all for this summer is to get better in surf and waves in the ski, and also (once I’m better in the ski) even in the Thunderbolt. My dream is to be as good as Ken, but I’d settle for being as good as guys like Mike or Bill. (That’s not a slam at the other guys – Ken is amazing in the waves, and I don’t think anybody would deny that. Dan and Doug are almost as good, but they don’t look as at home there as Ken, and then a few steps below that comes everybody else, and then a bunch of steps below all them comes me.)

So the big question in my mind is whether I should aim everything at being good and fast in time for Long Lake, or whether I could build up the enormous distance base I’d need to race The 90. I don’t think I could hang with Doug or Mike in the 90, but I could probably finish. Either way I’m going to have to put in a lot of hours, both on the water and off. And I’m putting aside the money now for a SpeedStroke to help towards that goal. I know a lot of people say they get bored doing hours on the SpeedStroke, but I’ve done several 1.5 hour workouts on other people’s SpeedStrokes and I enjoyed it.

Last year my goal was to do 650-700 miles during the year and then 800+ the year after to prepare me for the 90, and I actually managed 778, but I’m probably not going to manage 800 in 2011. So I don’t know where that leaves me.

How did Google find that?

Google has a blog post showing how they set up some fake search results, and then a short time later Bing started returning the same fake results, and therefore they suspect IE8’s “Suggested Sites” and/or Bing’s “Customer Experience Improvement Program” is spying on what you click and sending the results off to Microsoft.

But before Google gets all high and mighty, I want to tell you about what happened to me. I did some documentation for a customer I was doing some work for. I did it in the form of a TiddleyWiki and stuck it up on a brand new, never used before subdomain of my main domain. Well, she hated it and asked that I do it as a Word document instead, which I did. But I forgot to take it down. No problem, I thought, after all nothing links to it or mentions it in any public place, so how would a crawler find it?

Imagine my surprise when the customer calls me up some time later saying that this old version of the documentation, in a subdirectory on a un-linked to site is showing up in Google searches for her product’s name. How did that happen? Using the advanced search, I couldn’t find anything that linked to it. There was one mention of that domain in a forum post, but in that case I was using the :8080 port because I was referring to the Tomcat server that was also running on that domain.

So as I see it, the choices are:

  • Google saw the mention of the domain in the middle of a forum post, recognized it as a URL (it wasn’t a link) and stripped out the :8080 and crawled the site OR
  • They saw me mention the url in a link I send in a GMail to the customer and used that as an excuse to crawl the site.
  • IE reported the link to Bing when the customer clicked on it and then Google stole it from Bing somehow
  • Chrome reported the link to Google when I clicked on it

Either way, they’re crawling things that aren’t public links. Me thinks Google protest too much.

Nissan Maxima NY Plates ELT 2912

Hey, jerkwad. When you swerved suddenly into the middle lane, the bus you cut off had to lock up his brakes and started to slide. If he’d been half a second slower on getting on the brakes, he would have hit you. If he’d been half a second slower in getting off them, his rear end would have broken loose and probably hit me or the guy in the left lane. Next time, instead of thinking of your own selfish and stupid need to get to your destination without applying your brakes, why don’t you give a thought to the people around you?