/On Facebook and Twitter your privacy is at risk — even if you don’t have an account

On Facebook and Twitter your privacy is at risk — even if you don’t have an account

Identity and actions can be predicted from friends — undermining idea of ‘individual choice’ on social media

Article ID: 706768

Released: 18-Jan-2019 2:05 PM EST

Source Newsroom: University of Vermont

Newswise — A new study shows that privacy on social media is like second-hand smoke. It’s controlled by the people around you.

Image for illustration purposes only. Image added (not in the original article).

Individual choice has long been considered a bedrock principle of online privacy. If you don’t want to be on Facebook, you can leave or not sign up in the first place. Then your behavior will be your own private business, right?

The new study presents powerful evidence that the answer to that question is no.

The team of scientists, from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide, gathered more than thirty million public posts on Twitter from 13,905 users. With this data, they showed that information within the Twitter messages from 8 or 9 of a person’s contacts make it possible to predict that person’s later tweets as accurately as if they were looking directly at that person’s own Twitter feed.

The new study also shows that if a person leaves a social media platform–or never joined–the online posts and words of their friends still provide about 95% of the “potential predictive accuracy,” the scientists write, of a person’s future activities–even without any of that person’s data.

Looked at from the other direction, when you sign up for Facebook or another social media platform” you think you’re giving up your information, but you’re giving up your friends’ information too!” says University of Vermont mathematician James Bagrow who led the new research.

The study was published January 21 in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

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