According to a report this week from Fusion.net, the patients of a psychiatrist had their privacy compromised when Facebook’s “People You May Know” tool began recommending they add each other as friends.
At first, according to the therapist, she began noticing her patients being recommended to her as friends. Most of her patients are senior citizens or people with serious health or developmental issues, except for one: a man in his 30s. That younger man began seeing older people popping up in his “People You May Know” section and told the therapist about it, and she concluded that her patients’ names and info were being revealed to each other.
“He laughed and said, ‘I don’t know any of these people who showed up on my list— I’m guessing they see you,’” the psychiatrist said. “He showed me the list of friend recommendations, and I recognized some of my patients… It’s a massive privacy fail. I have patients with HIV, people that have attempted suicide and women in coercive and violent relationships.”
Another patient was shown a recommended friend that she recognized from the elevator in the therapist’s office.
Facebook is pretty vague about where these recommendations come from, but the report speculates that the information could be derived from the therapist’s cell phone number that she’d uploaded to Facebook.