Facebook Probe Finds Millions of Users Exposing Potentially Damaging Personal Information

May 3, 2012  •  Post A Comment

A new investigation into Facebook privacy concerns reveals that millions of users are failing to use privacy controls and have exposed personal information that could be used against them, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The study by Consumer Reports “revealed that a projected 4.8 million people have posted about where they planned to go on a certain day, a potential tip-off to burglars, while 4.7 million have ‘liked’ a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments, details that insurers might use against them,” the story reports.

The study indicates almost 13 million Facebook users in the U.S. are unaware of or simply do not use the social network’s privacy controls, which means the information they post can be distributed beyond their network of Facebook friends. The report is being published in the June issue of Consumer Reports and on the publication’s website.

The WSJ story adds: “The Consumer Reports investigation focused on Facebook as it is the largest social network with just over 900 million users worldwide and more than 150 million users in the U.S. The service makes it easy for people to keep up with friends, family and colleagues, discover great content, and connect to causes. Consumer Reports notes that to deliver this service, Facebook and other social networks collect enormous amounts of often highly sensitive information and distribute it widely and quickly.”

Privacy issues appear to be on the rise, according to the study. WSJ reports: “A projected 7 million households using Facebook said they had trouble last year, ranging from someone using their log-in without permission to being harassed or threatened — up 30% from the previous year, according to the Consumer Reports Annual State of the Net survey. And unless an individual has chosen their privacy settings meticulously, one of their friends who runs an app could grant it access to their information without their knowledge, including information that was set to ‘friends’ only view. Only 37% of users say they have used the site’s privacy tools to customize how much information apps are allowed to see, according to the Consumer Reports survey.”

Consumer Reports Technology Editor Jeff Fox said: “Facebook really is changing the way the world socially communicates and has become a successful service in part by leveraging copious amounts of personal data that can be spread far wider than its users might realize. Our investigation revealed some fascinating, and some disquieting trends — but ones always worth knowing for consumers who wish to keep their personal data under better control."

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