Accidental Geography on Facebook
By stern on Jul 23, 2009
Today I noticed that the "Cayman Islands" were the top country for interaction with my page. I have no friends (that I know of) who call the Cayman Islands home, so I poked around and found the page comment that generated the trend. Sure enough, it's a US-based friend vacationing in the Caymans (his public content conveys the same information). So commenting on a Facebook page creates an indirect trail to whatever IP address is reported at the time.
IP addresses are a terrible mechanism for assuring location (due to proxies, carriers, firewalls and other aggregation/translation points) but in this case, they are a fair proxy for "not at home." You could argue that if I'm using Facebook on vacation (or while traveling) I'm disclosing a signficant amount of personal information anyway, but there are many Facebook users who hide their home geographic information and by extension, might want to hide their mobile geographic information as well. The fact that source IP address trumps "home" for determining interaction sources means that Facebook is at least ignoring the intent of, if not the exact letter of, these user preferences when it comes to clouding geography.