Impact of Google, Facebook Locations and Use Of AI to connect and Locate Users


In recent times, we all have come across situations where we receive a “people you may know” list from Facebook. Back then, this was just a list of friends of friends, but with the introduction of Google Location, Google Maps, Facebook Location and Contact indexing, this algorithm has been improved to create more lists.

This list now includes people you recently met at a function, job interview, friend’s party, and church gatherings or even have been coincidentally together in a building or restaurant. Ideally this is a great thing for making the world a global village, but these new locators can amount to social media app stalking.

Changes over the years…

Google Location and Maps have been a great help to many, especially those using Google’s Android OS for their mobile devices. This has always been of help to; Trace areas of interest and find ones way, recover lost devices, assist in assigning device IP address when roaming, use recent activities and location to provide other applications on your device information that they may need, like recent searches, interests etc.

With smart devices like smart watches, location can be used to provide your exact/closest location during an emergency for emergency responses if and when your device is linked to an emergency contact center (ambulance/hospital).

Google location and Maps also Provide Traffic information by mapping all active devices on a certain highway or road and have essentially assisted device manufacturers to provide custom assistance to users whenever they make or report issues with their devices.

Further, Google maps and location have assisted law enforcement to track and arrest offenders, mostly device thieves.

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That said, how has this been achieved?

Over the years, Artificial Intelligence, otherwise referred to as AI, has been a technology in constant improvement and mass use to help companies like Google improve on their location and map services.

This has been achieved with creation and improvement of AI machines and algorithms in their location and mapping services.

AI in it’s wide use may include features as exact location tracing, face/voice recognition, fingerprint recognition, body movement, BP, Body Temperature reading and many more from a simple smart device.

In it’s wide use, the tech, playing a part in our daily lives including health and fitness, has always been a major factor in it’s embedment to apps like Facebook for location tracing.

So, how does Facebook know who I met, and add him/her to my people you may know list?

We all have device location set as active, for best map results, recovering our devices incase of losing them plus, most apps we install request us to allow them to track our location.

As a regular user of Facebook many times one would update status and include location. In a simple location search from Facebook your last 5-10 status updates can tell a person and the AI algorithm the last 5-10 places you’ve been.

The AI algorithm then matches these locations with other users who’ve been to similar locations as you. This intelligent system pulls further data of common interests the two of you have had, and Facebook adds to it your common friends, even if it’s just one.

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With this data, the people you may know algorithm matches the two of you and adds this to your list. If neither of you do not immediately send the other a friend request, then you both stay on the list, but once one of you does and you accept, the algorithm continues the trend and more people are added to that list from your recent connection/location.

What are its shortcomings…?

There are people we’ve met, but innocently have no intentions of having further engagements with. This varies from person to person, for instance, there are social media platforms that I personally do not engage colleagues and clients. That’s my private social place. We all need a break from work and just want to let loose and have fun.

Such algorithms do not restrict and take note of such wishes, and may push even colleagues and bosses to that list.

Secondly, unless you are a follow for follow, friend request junkie, we don’t wish to have that long list of strangers as people we may know, and a long list of friend requests.

With this algorithm, comes some risks; social media tools within the apps have devised mechanisms to breach user privacy by infiltrating the AI algorithms for their selfish interests.

We have had cases of impersonation of prominent or even regular Joe’s and account hacking.

There have been scenarios where your last location and social media activities allow an enthusiastic user to infiltrate your account, create a pseudo account and impersonate you.

We have had situations where users claim of account being hacked and indecent messages sent to various contacts.

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There have been instances where an innocent friends request comes through with a familiar face of someone your recently met. As usual we innocently accept but little do we know that this might be a pseudo catfish, stalker, or even a bully just about to turn our social media lives upside down.

Currently there are no well-known ways to avert location services. Taking charge of apps requesting location info, disabling location services or activation of false location could do, though the algorithms are smart enough.

The Writer Martin Deporres is a System Architect at ConnectBiz Africa.

Reach him on: LinkedIn:


Phone: +254-725-924-633

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