This past Labor Day, my college friend was in town for a month and had invited me to hang out with friends over grilled food and games. It was a a good time. I got to meet new people, enjoy their company and all of us – guests and the host couple – ended up having a blast. A couple days later, I logged into LinkedIn (via web), and a picture of the host popped up in the bottom right corner of the webpage as Another Person You May Know.
I was curious. Certainly, there’s a lot to keep up with as a ton of changes have occurred over time in LinkedIn’s algorithms which when I joined, categorized and recommended potential contacts based on existing network, work and school history. However, this was not the case. The host and I had had this one mutual friend whom we had both been on and offline friends with for years, and I wanted to figure out what suddenly roused this latent connection that resulted in a social recommendation. So I started to mentally retrace my steps:
- My friend Peter mentions he has a friend he wants me to meet, Joyce. While he’s talking about the impressive work that Joyce has been involved with, I google her name on my phone’s browser. Cookies, page browsing tracking.
- Couple hours later, Joyce and her husband show up to pick Peter from my place, and right there and then, all four of us are at the same location. Our phones which have IP addresses are oozing geo-spatial data. The three go off to spend some time together, and later return to drop Peter off at mine. Again, another geo-spatial count.
- This time around, we talk for a bit and Joyce and I exchange numbers before they leave. Phone numbers/Contacts. By the way, I don’t have my contacts synced to my LinkedIn account. Maybe she does, I didn’t ask. A couple days to the party, we trade texts and a phone call.
- Peter posts a picture on Instagram, tags me in it and Joyce leaves a comment. I check her profile, ‘like’ some of her pictures and follow her. She does the same. Social media data.
- Finally it’s party time! I visit her home, sharing geo-spatial data again. And a couple days later, she’s in my LinkedIn feed.
Without knowing whether or how heavily involved LinkedIn is with using a 360 view of its users, my best bet is to solve by elimination. I check the default privacy settings on their site and it appears the glaring culprit is the phone number (exchange). I reckon if it were geo-spatial data, Joyce’s husband’s profile (that’s if he has one) would also pop up in my feed, since I had met both her and her husband at the same time and place. However, I only exchanged numbers with her. The same goes for the interaction on Instagram. Plus the next time we would all regroup at the party, there were more people – none of which have popped up in my feed. At least not yet. There was no number swapping (or Instagram following), but then again, what if they do not have LinkedIn accounts?
It gets more interesting to break this up into chunks and identify the underlying technologies that enable this interaction.