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You deleted your social media accounts? Well, your friends are still posting about you

Posted January 26, 2019

Privacy in the age of social media is as important as ever. We post everything about our lives, everything has our names and we are very easy to find and study. Many emerging privacy and data security scandals are leading people to deleting their accounts, but does that really solve the problem? Scientists from the University of Adelaide in Australia and the University of Vermont in the US found that people who deleted their accounts they can be profiled from the information that can be drawn from their friends’ posts.

Even if you don’t use social media anymore, your friends may be posting your images, location and even personal preferences. Image credit: Solomon203 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

This is quite a worrying information, because not so long ago deleting account meant deleting your presence from these social networks. Now your friends may be tagging themselves with you in certain locations just to notify everyone that, for example, they are watching a movie. That’s right – your exact location may be given out without your permission or even knowledge by people who do not wish evil. The same happens with your image and some life events. Scientists determined that people’s behaviour is predictable from the social media data of as few as eight or nine of their friends.

And so, scientists are saying that there is nowhere to hide. You can delete your profile, but that doesn’t mean that you will be safe from profiling. It is like listening to someone’s phone conversation – you don’t hear what the other person is saying, but you learn a lot about them from the guy with the phone in front of you. In fact, in the case of social media, the only thing you ensure by deleting your account is you inability to track your data in these websites. Scientists analysed the information content of over 30 million Twitter messages and found that up to 95% of the potential accuracy for an individual is achievable using data from their friends alone.

Predicting behaviour of social media users is actually beneficial sometimes. Websites can offer you content that you would be interested in. But, of course, they are also using this information for advertisement purposes. That is actually one of the reasons why people want to get rid of their presence on social media. Dr James Bagrow, co-author of the study, said: “Many people know they are giving out access to their information when choosing to use an online platform, but they think it’s only information about themselves. But it’s not an individual choice: they’re also giving away information about their friends”.

But what can you do? Well, if you are using social media, ask your friends if you can post pictures with them. Also, try not giving any personal information about other people. And if you are not in social networks, ask why picture is being taken and express your wish for your image not to be posted online. Instead, offer your help taking the picture.

Source: University of Adelaide


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