Jan Leow's Press Blog

Social Websites: You are who you know

When using social websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc, usually we try not to divulge too much information. After all there are unscrupulous shenanigans out to phish information that you publicly display. Identity theft is pretty dangerous for you. You may try to protect yourself by limiting the number of information available, but now researchers have come out a way to infer about information that you have left out by using an algorithm to search your friends profile and infer information that you have left out.

So you thought that by leaving information out would afford you some privacy and perhaps only let people know about 20% about you, but with this technique they can infer information up to 80% accuracy about your other attributes.

Here’s the WebProWorld article that pop into my inbox. Read and be warned!

With all the privacy options afforded by Facebook, you like to think keeping information private is a breeze if you know how all the options work. According to a recent study, vital information not commonly known as “private” could be used to profile you.

The title of the article linked above is a perfect summary of what the study is all about: “On Facebook, You Are Who You Know” It’s a simple as that really; I could end the editor’s note right now and leave you to ponder the thought. Since it’s Friday I’ll provide a few more details.

Researchers developed an algorithm by which they could discover user’s attributes based solely of their friends list. High school, college, hometown, and other pieces of information can be deciphered using this algorithm. Most people on friends lists disclose a large amount of information publicly; using these friends is how the program is able to pick up on tendencies.

Alan Mislove, provides a startling statistic, “with as little as 20 percent of the users providing attributes we can often infer the attributes for the remaining users with over 80 percent accuracy.”

The researches concluded that simply hiding all of your profile information isn’t providing enough security. There needs to an option for hiding your friends who perhaps might be sharing information which could be inferred upon you.

It seems as though the battle for security is never ending. Marketers, and other interested parties will continue to look for data wherever they can get their hands on it. Best to pass this information along to your friends, if you want to remain unknown to them. — Johnny Vinson

The ideas presented in the WebProWorld newsletter editor’s note do not reflect the thoughts, and ideas of the WebProWorld community.

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