"In a relationship" or not, Facebook knows who you're dating, researchers say

Daniel Bean
Assistant Editor
Yahoo News


Facebook, the social media super site that we share everything with, is now apparently learning how to find out the types of information we choose not to share with it.

Though 27% of Facebook users don't list their relationship status at all, only about half of those people are single, according to a Men's Health article. If you're one of these users committing the crime of omission, Facebook's team of "in-house sociologists" has been researching ways to find you out.

As reported by the MIT Technology Review, new research by Facebook and Cornell University has found that, given all the connections among a person’s friends, it can be recognized who a user's romantic partner is from the network structure alone.

"Many individuals have large clusters of friends corresponding to well-defined foci of interaction in their lives, such as their cluster of co-workers or the cluster of people with whom they attended college," the report states. "Since many people within these clusters know each other, the clusters contain links of very high embeddedness...In contrast, the links to a person’s relationship partner or other closest friends may have lower embeddedness, but they will often involve mutual neighbors from several different foci."




If you're "friends" with several of your other half's co-workers, family members and friends, for example, Facebook may deduce that your only mutual link to these profiles is your assumed wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend. Researchers said they had a high success rate in correctly guessing someone's romantic partner by this method.

Of course, these types of sleuthy Facebook social science projects have been ongoing for some time now. A research project earlier this year from Cambridge claimed it had success detecting non-volunteered information like users' sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views just from what people "liked" on the site.

So why is Facebook itself conducting the type of a study that would track down your undeclared romantic partner? Surely it's in the best interest of the social media giant to know the ins, outs and logistics of how its site and all of the users operate in a network. But the most genuine answer, we might have to agree with MIT, is that it's likely for advertising revenue opportunities.

One thing the study made no mention of being able to detect, unfortunately, is whether that girl that keeps messaging you and commenting on your pictures, but never actually hangs out with you, will ever date you. Thanks for nothing, science.