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On Social Networks, You Are Who You Know

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the spy-with-a-little-help-from-my-friends dept.

Privacy 171

santosh maharshi writes "On social networks like Facebook, even if you have kept your profile very private, people can just look at your friends list and infer lots of vital information about you. Most of the social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn allow people to see your picture and your friends list as part of the open access for visitors (the article says that only 5% of Facebook users have bothered to hide their friends list). In a study titled You Are Who You Know: Inferring User Profiles in Online Social Networks (PDF), conducted by Alan Mislove of Northeastern University and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, an algorithm was tested that can accurately infer the personal attributes of Facebook users simply by looking at their friend lists. 'At Rice [University], the algorithm accurately predicted the correct dormitory, graduation year, and area of study for the many of the students. In fact, among these undergraduates, researchers found that “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."'"

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171 comments

You have friends (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452036)

with common tastes. News at 11.

Re:You have friends (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452110)

I think the point of this is that you shouldn't be showing public searchers your friend lists under any circumstances--especially Facebook.

Although for me most of the people on Facebook that I am "friends" with are people I knew in college. That doesn't necessarily mean we shared like interests, lived together or even were close. They added me and I wasn't so revolted by their existence that I said, "meh," and approved it.

As far as Twitter goes...most of the people that I follow on there are trimmed frequently. I go through and drop off the people I don't care for. I do a lot of water testing. Most of the people I do happen to follow I have never met in person nor do I plan to. I just happen to find what they say interesting whether I agree with it or not.

I guess I'm one of those people that causes this to go down to 80%.

Re:You have friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452282)

So someone can infer your interests from Twitter then. I think the point of all the social networking studies is this: Before all this, you knew nothing about anyone just to see them walking down the street. Now, I can go on any of these sites and gather some information about you BEFORE even seeing you in person for the first time. You may not think it's a big deal that a complete stranger knows your interests but there are social engineering topics that use just this information to earn your trust. It happens, it's happened and it will continue to happen. And don't say "it'll never happen to me."

Re:You have friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452954)

It'll never happen to me!

-anonymous coward

Re:You have friends (1)

jadrian (1150317) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453106)

Under any circumstances? Why not?

I want people to know that info anyway. Most, have it in the public part of the info section anyway. And this is nothing new to the advent of social networking. Plenty of people have had their own personal webpage with a bit of personal info and cv publicly available for ages.

Re:You have friends (2, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453230)

I think the point of this is that you shouldn't be showing public searchers your friend lists under any circumstances--especially Facebook.

I'd say it would be better to simply avoid Facebook, Twitter et cetera altogether. No matter how careful you are with your privacy settings (assuming Facebook can be trusted), unless you are meticulous about not posting anything that you would not say ANYWHERE else, sooner or later it's likely that you will run into some embarassment or another.

I have several friends who have suffered some form of discombobulation because their allusions to defects in the character of acquaintances have been made manifest through the friends-of-friends network.

Enough for me. I'll just stay off-grid.

Re:You have friends (4, Insightful)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452144)

Guess I'm nobody, since I have no facebook account LOL

But yeah, people shouldn't be surprised that publicly documenting every facet of your life results in less privacy, for you, and for everyone you know.

Re:You have friends (4, Funny)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452230)

Guess I'm nobody, since I have no facebook account LOL

You are nobody, not because you don't have a facebook account but because you just ended a sentence with an all-caps 'lol'.

Re:You have friends (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452562)

Even though LOL is (supposed to be) an acronym, every time I read it in uppercase I see it as an acronym (laugh out loud), instead of the word (lawl). Then I recall my friend thinking it was "Lots of Laughs" (what?) and I want to hurt somebody.

Re:You have friends (1)

Your.Master (1088569) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453428)

I see the acronym every time. Hearing "lawl" or seeing it referred to as a word with that pronounciation turns me into the Incredible Hulk.

Re:You have friends (2, Interesting)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452948)

A lot of people use it when they should use *smirk*, *g*, or :) instead. It's a disease.

Re:You have friends (1)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453460)

It's sad that the Internet has devolved to the point where an emoticon is considered the less annoying alternative for ending a sentence.

Re:You have friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453108)

The less you share with others the more you are somebody?

Re:You have friends (1)

blitzkrieg3 (995849) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452674)

But yeah, people shouldn't be surprised that publicly documenting every facet of your life results in less privacy, for you, and for everyone you know.

That isn't the surprise. The surprise is that even if you go out of your way to not publicly document some things (such as high school), this information can be found out through your friends list.

You're not nobody (2, Interesting)

killmenow (184444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452982)

You went go college and studied computer science, achieving at least an Associates Degree. You usually wear decent clothing (slacks, button-shirt, etc.) not jeans and tee shirts.

You are a sysadmin and use BSD, GNU/Linux, AIX, IRIX and SunOS/Solaris but GNU/Linux exclusively on your personal PC (but think Macs are okay and are quite capable at using them as well), think Windows OSes barely qualify for the "OS" label, know what a Vax is and even know your way around VMS, and are a first rate perl-monger.

You think emacs is of the devil and probably have many esoteric vi command keys memorized.

While you surf the intarwebs regularly you know there were tubes before webs and still read Usenet on occasion.

You are fairly libertarian but likely not a card-carrying member of the Libertarian party.

Furthermore, you are an avid reader and at one time played DOOM way too much.

Oh, and despite all this, you found someone who loved you enough to accept your marriage proposal.

I could tell you more about yourself but that's just what I got in the first 60 seconds.

Re:You're not nobody (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453022)

I don't know whether to be scared or amused ^_^

Re:You have friends (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453322)

Well, you're nobody on "social networks like Facebook" if you don't have an account. Fair enough?

Re:You have friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453490)

What about the folks who have a small handful of "real friends" and then very high numbers (many hundreds) of game friends like Mafia Wars? One might think I lived in the middle east or Scandinavia based on those metrics.

Uhhh, Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452054)

Hasn't this been known since the beginning of time?

Re:Uhhh, Duh? (1)

heritage727 (693099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453084)

Hasn't this been known since the beginning of time?

Since just after the beginning of time, actually. You'll notice that some of the researchers were from the Max Planck Institute. The next paper in the series is "Social Networking Among Bosons During the Inflationary Epoch."

OK, and? (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452142)

The things they found out aren't things most people have any reason to keep secret. OK, if you see that most of my Facebook friends went to Cowpie High or Mediocre State University, and you'll realize that I, too, probably went to Cowpie High and Mediocre State. So what? Mediocre State is on my (sometimes publicly available) resume, and it's not like its any secret that I went to Cowpie High either. (and yes, the school's actual nickname among the students was that)

Much more interesting would be if they could figure things which people are trying to keep private. Where they buried the bodies of their "missing" parents, if they're gay but in the closet (I think there already was an article about that over a year ago, though), membership in the Secret Order of Inquisitors and Torturers (friending Dick Cheney is the giveaway here), etc.

Re:OK, and? (2, Insightful)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452320)

Way to Go, slashdot readers! Completely overgeneralizing a research article!

The point is that it doesn't even have to be "most" of your Facebook friends. You can infer a surprising amount of information based on a relatively small sampling of people. This is not as obvious as it sounds. The proper extension is that this type of research indicates it's possible to infer other information (like shopping, political, geographic, demographic, etc) from information reflected by your friends. If it really is that obvious, why doesn't everybody already do it effectively? It's because it's not easy and not at all obvious. Facebook and Google have some impressive algorithms for this type of thing but nothing systematic and not as quantified as anybody might think.

You'd think people would welcome fundamental research into an obviously useful area. Sheesh

Re:OK, and? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452512)

If it really is that obvious, why doesn't everybody already do it effectively?

Because it's boring and not useful. Sheeesh!

What this study shows is the value of network data (3, Interesting)

mantis2009 (1557343) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452636)

For anyone who isn't clear on why Facebook and Twitter are so valuable, this study is yet another example of how much rich information is embedded in social network data. It's easy to imagine applications for pulling information out of social network data. Who would be interested in such data? Advertisers, ex-girlfriends, social researchers, police detectives, anti-terrorism, intelligence agencies... the list goes on and on. Pretty much any project with interests in the social world would benefit from social networking data. It's valuable. Why you would give away your social networking data to Facebook, Twitter, or Google for free?

Re:OK, and? (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452942)

> if they're gay but in the closet

Being in the closet is pretty much history at this point. I'm pretty sure there are now more people who openly admit to being gay than there are actual practicing homosexuals. Saying you're gay is like having a tatoo: your grandparents would have been appalled, but now it's a status symbol. Also, chicks dig it and will hang out with you more.

It could go a lot deeper (3, Insightful)

ShaggyZet (74769) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452156)

While the study proves a fairly obvious hypothesis, what your social network could say about you could go a lot deeper than that. It's not much of a leap to determine religion, politics, sexual orientation or various other things that people don't fully consider, or could even be used to violate equal opportunity housing or hiring laws. I think there are a lot of great things about social networking, and facebook in particular, but the how it's changing cultural views and expectations of privacy is shocking and fast, and I don't think we'll have perspective on whats happening for years to come.

Re:It could go a lot deeper (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452534)

Yeah, Facebook has begun to seriously scare me. I think it has been successful only because it started so slowly; we are frogs being boiled.

Remember how it started? Initially it was literally a web-based "facebook" -- like those printed things you used to get in college -- which (1) was restricted to students at a few Ivy-League schools, and (2) only shared information between people in the same "network" (which at the time meant "university"). Being on Facebook didn't mean broadcasting your profile to the entire world.

Then, over time, it became steadily less selective. First it opened up to non-Ivy-leage schools. Then eventually it opened up to everyone, dropping the academic associations entirely.

Trend-setting, upper-class, intelligent, elite-college-educated people signed up in the beginning because they thought it was a safe little sandbox for their own kind, and their presence made it respectable. Then slowly it opened up, morphing into Myspace -- but with the advantage that people who weren't dumb enough to give out their information on Myspace were already hooked.

It all feels pretty insidious.

In a generation, people will, I hope, rise up against this whole corporate-sponsored social networking thing and leave en masse. But what I'm afraid will actually happen is that they will instead grow up having Facebook profiles from the age of 10 up, with absolutely no expectation of privacy, or any idea that something is wrong.

Re:It could go a lot deeper (1)

mdf356 (774923) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452972)

It's not much of a leap to determine religion, politics, sexual orientation or various other things that people don't fully consider

I'm not sure I believe this (I haven't read TFA yet). While I think you could infer where I grew up and went to High School from my friends list, I think you'd have a very hard time with my political orientation, sexual orientation, or religion, since my Facebook friends (like my real-life friends) come from a diverse set of backgrounds.

It's not surprising people in college mostly know other people in college from about the same year as them and possibly the same major. Someone in their 30s presumably has a more diverse set of friends.

Mutual friends = instant gaydar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453110)

sexual orientation

Look at the bright side of it: Use Facebook for search of potential mates. One glance at "mutual friends" => instant gaydar.

And the best thing: those who are not member of "the family" have a much harder time to figure it out (they'll need to actually visit your friends' pages one by one and hope that those aren't closeted either...)

So it's a good thing: it reveals info to those people who should know, while reasonably hiding it from those who shouldn't.

A good first step (1)

Robyrt (1305217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452162)

but college students are some of the most strongly connected people around. They are more likely to be friends with their neighbors (who all share their age and occupation), Facebook adoption rates in their social circle are very high, and they have a very strong overlap between work, living arrangements and social life.

This isn't generally worrisome for the rest of us, who aren't Facebook friends with everyone on our street or office building.

What could possibly happen? (1)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452176)

A potential employeur might use this algorithm to predict my graduation year and area of study instead of just looking at the resume I sent him?

Scary.

Re:What could possibly happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452264)

Actually, he probably threw out your resume the moment he saw that you graduated from Bangalore IIT.

Re:What could possibly happen? (1)

TheMidget (512188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453132)

A potential employeur might use this algorithm to predict my graduation year and area of study instead of just looking at the resume I sent him?

He might figure other, less public, details about you.

I'm sure that marketing companies have known this (3, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452200)

I'm sure that marketing companies have known this for years. The give-away is when they get it wrong. I get lots of adverts for cheap calls to India and for services to "send money home". I'm not Indian but most of my friends are.

Re:I'm sure that marketing companies have known th (1)

topcoder (1662257) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453280)

Yeah, i know that too, in my case i always get adverts in Facebook like "Do you want to have a girlfriend?" from online dating sites, so i have to say the marketing companies are doing a good job detecting my desperation.

Re:I'm sure that marketing companies have known th (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453384)

Sounds like they hit the nail on the head with you, even though you're not Indian.

Think about it - maybe s/he makes plenty of calls to India, or has family there?

Not so shocking (3, Interesting)

calibre-not-output (1736770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452218)

This only works assuming the public use of Facebook is ubiquitous. If only half of your friends are on the network, or if only half of them allow information about them to be publicly visible, the accuracy of the predictions will suffer greatly. This in turn means that the algorithm will more accurately predict the traits of people who have the trait of not caring about their online privacy. It's a calculation based on an assumption. In other words, bollocks.

Re:Not so shocking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452408)

Why would you need 100% of your friends to be on the network? This would work with 10% of your friends, assuming there is enough coverage of your different circles of friends. Work friends, college friends, old school friends, old work friends (company #1), old work friends (company #2), theatre group friends or whatever.

It seems to me you can track who is in each circle of friend just by looking at everyone's friend lists and calculating cliques (graph theory).

Then, you can identify the traits of each circle if only a few members reveal personal information.

So you may have 150 Facebook friends, and move in 4 circles, and about 12 people would be required to figure all this out. That's less than 10% of your friend list.

nah (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452242)

This is yet another "correlation does not mean causation" result from a university. Which does lead me to correlate that universities are a possible cause of a lot of bad/worthless research these days. This study certainly seems to fall into that category. God only knows how people get funding for this kind of study.

I have Facebook "friends" that I barely know, people I've not seen in decades, people I once worked with. I'd be astonished if you can draw ANY accurate conclusions about me from any of those connections. You MAY be able to draw some conclusions about SOME people from their friends list. But even if you can, is that info really of any real use? Yes, advertisers might buy it, but really they are buying fool's gold.

A Jury would... (0)

gillbates (106458) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453200)

What you fail to understand is that while *you* understand that you can't predict anything about you in the logically-provable sense, if you are accused of a crime, a jury of your (COUGH) peers decides your fate.

They're not going to ask, "Can we prove this in an epistemilogical sense?" No, they're going to ask, "Does it look like he would do that?" and, "What if we're wrong, and he really is a terrorist?" The fact that you are "linked to a known terrorist" via Facebook will be sufficient. Maybe you really are curious about why someone would commit suicide bombings, about their mindset, the desperation which could drive someone to do such things, or... Maybe you're planning to blow up a school. Wouldn't it be safer to just put you away "just in case?"

The aggregation of data from sites such as Facebook, etc... makes it all that much easier for a prosecutor to prosecute *someone* for a crime irrespective of their actual innocence. Someone who can be linked to a crime via this massive surveillance network is more likely to plead guilty than take their chances with a lengthy and costly court battle. Unlike God, our legal system is about the *appearance* of justice, rather than the actuality thereof. (If you need evidence, consider that the discovery of additional evidence, even exculpatory evidence, is insufficient grounds for a new trial even in capital cases; rather, to get a new trial, the appellant must show that a *procedural* error was committed.)

Blinding revelation (2, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452270)

Stereotypes work.

Re:Blinding revelation, version 2 (1)

Shotgun (30919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452442)

Birds of a feather flock together.

Damn! Mama was right again. And the researchers didn't figure it out until 30 years later.

Re:Blinding revelation, version 2 (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452540)

You know, now with such "research", social science people will be rattling on about it as if it became a solid scientific finding "backed by research", rather than a conventional wisdom that it really is and remains so.

Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (4, Informative)

jackpot777 (1159971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452288)

If you want to see just how much of 'you' (and anyone else in the US) there is out there for all to see, go to Spokeo [spokeo.com] and type in your name. It got my marital status wrong and had a few gaps regarding interests. But my address was on the button and it provided the view of my house from Google StreetView. Just in case I win the lottery and someone wants to kidnap me...

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452522)

So they looked up data in a phonebook and linked the outcome to the google maps wiki. Wow.
Strangely the things that are not genrally known it had wrong.

A better thing would be to just use google to find stuff and people. I used the site above for someone who I know in the states and it found nothing. Google gave me much more detail.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

jackpot777 (1159971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452590)

My phone number is unlisted. Has been all my life. I'm not in the phonebook, and I never have been. I'll let that sink in.

Here's how they do it. (2, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452760)

Go to www.zabasearch.com and type in your name.

It will probably turn up a few addresses. Now all that's left is to geo-locate your IP address and dump the addresses close to that location onto Google Maps.

Even if you have an unlisted phone number your address is easy to find.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453016)

Ever fill out a change of address form with the post office?

Yeah... about half the info listed is wrong. Marital status, zodiac sign... wrong. Interests? That looks like a total crapshoot. I mean... "Enjoys Entertainment." Really... who would have thought it. There's no need for me to go into which ones are absolutely wrong, because I see no need to clean up that company's database. In fact, let me just check that little box below.

On the other hand, there is one hobby on there which I have taken up lately that they would only know about if the had access to my Google Maps history... I hadn't talked about that to the internet about that in any other way. And as far as "hobbies" go, it would be a bad one to assume most residents of my country do... in fact, looking at these hobby results there is a good chance that more of this info comes from web browsing/searching info than from social networking. Hmm... some of this stuff applies more to my mom and sister than to me. They occasionally use my computer... Hmm.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452834)

Apparently I'm a High School graduate in my late 70s living in a million dollar house in southern california.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

hatten (1640681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452900)

That website doesn't say very much unless you cough up money. I'm happy that the only thing it got correct was which city I live in, and some IP adresses. It didn't even get my real name correct! Although it might have helped a bit that I don't live in the states.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452960)

What if your name is Steve Johnson? Good luck finding youself in the sea of Johnsons.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

tabdelgawad (590061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452974)

Given the errors in my 'basic profile', the most useful info about me on that page is the profile of my neighborhood. But that's always been available from my zip code, something I freely give to anyone who asks (including checkout clerks).

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

Zenaku (821866) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453104)

I just tried it. It was . . . interesting.

There were 8 results for my first and last name. Two of them were "me."

One "me" was at the address I lived prior to this one. It had my age and zodiac sign (seriously Spokeo?) correct, but had no information on my occupation, education, or hobbies, had my marital status wrong, and claimed that the estimated value of my home was greater than one million dollars. (Wow. I bought and sold that house for arround 250K. And Spokeo itself noted that the neighborhood was "below average" and had a median home value of 200K). The only things it said about my "lifestyle" were that I am not interested in politics and love shopping. . . both the opposite of true.

The other "me" was at my parent's address, where I have not lived since I was in high-school 15+ years ago. It listed me as being in my late 50's (I'm 32), married (I am, but sure wasn't when I lived there), the owner of that home (nope), and listed every single hobby and lifestyle interest you can think of, most of which have zero to do with me.

So. . . not so spooked out by Spokeo. If anything, it provides useful disinformation to protect me from the covert agents of the shadow government that is out to get me.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453220)

I poked around a little on their site. It's amazing how the terms of service state things like "this is not to be used for marketing, blah blah blah..." when marketing appears to be the only reason for such an information aggregator to exist. They CLAIM they are a social networking site, but no honest social networking site would automatically scrape info such as estimated value of the home you live in (Which I do know to be available from the records of the city I live in... so at least I know where they got that from.)

And on a related note, the company does have an opt out [spokeo.com] of sorts. I have no idea whether the company would actually honor the request that your info be blocked. Hmm... that page actually might be showing me how the company REALLY makes money... there is a link to "My Privacy Reputation Defender." Wow. that scares me a little bit more. "See how much info we can scoop up about you on the web? We can block it for a low monthly fee!" I am highly suspicious of the claim that that this Reputation Defender company can go in and remove your info from other databases like it claims.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453406)

Wow, that's kind of strange. I came up one result that's basically right in my neighborhood but doesn't seem to be me. I came up with another result that, as far as I can tell, is an amalgam of me and my father.

No real apparent record of me, though. I'm happy about that.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (1)

eht (8912) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453436)

My name is fairly uncommon, only 63 hits(66 hits if you use my abbreviated name), none of which are me at my current or any previous addresses.

Re:Kick it up a notch: spokeo.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453492)

I was in there at the correct address, but that was about the end of the correctness. Marital status, kids, interests, everything else was wrongity wrong.

What happens in Vegas, stays on facebook (5, Funny)

shambler.com (1187127) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452298)

What happens in Vegas, stays on facebook

Re:What happens in Vegas, stays on facebook (1)

neophytepwner (992971) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452656)

This is why you must purge your account from time to time, i.e. delete your entire account then open a new one to spoil.

Re:What happens in Vegas, stays on facebook (2, Funny)

nobodylocalhost (1343981) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452734)

That's when you face punch the ass who tagged you, since you can find out who they are and where they live from facebook via the algorithm in TFA.

Prior Art: Very Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452318)

Here is a list of my references [google.com].

You may now return to regular daily activities of checking your cell phone every 10 minutes and reading Fartbook.

Yours In Ufa,
Kilgore Trout

So true (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452344)

I friended an old colleague of mine who has a prominent sales position at a tech firm, and was curious why he hid his friend list. So I browsed his news and watched his wall for ahwile and soon realized he just didn't want people to know he was gay. It wasn't blatent, but you could tell that a large number of people leaving messages were loudly gay, talking about gay iissues like gay marriage, etc..

Of course I never knew this whan I actually worked with him, and we litterally spent man weeks together at customer sites - although I afterwards realized that he was very good looking and never seemed to have a current girl friend, only talked about ex's. It all fit really.

So the article struck a chord with me.

Re:So true (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453438)

.. we litterally spent man weeks together ..

Heh

i'm not on facebook (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452348)

it seems like a giant ego bonfire, it seems like a massive waste of time to tweak minor pointless trivia about your social life. just the very thought of it fills me with tedium and exhaustion. it seems to reinforce the worst aspects of people's personalities: their vanity, their shallowness, and their mediocrity. i mean who really fucking cares, including yourself, about this running narrative about the pointless banalities of your life?

and now i find the someone, in fact, does care: the demons of id theft and invasion of privacy and spam marketing... as invited into your life, by your own vanity

do the best thing you can ever do for yourself: lose facebook. don't go to another social networking site, just simply drop completely off the radar of this fad whose only value is to reinforce and amplify the worst parts of your personality, and to turn you into fodder to be harvested by search spiders and marketing algorithms

you've offered your life up to harvesting by a depersonalizing machine. grow some character by becoming real, and lose the ridiculous mask called facebook. if the lunch meat called spam became the catchword for depersonalized email message, i'd like to offer that social networking be known as soylent green: it's people! social networking sites like facebook are everyday people, ground up, processed and extruded into depersonalized marketing diarrhea: soylent green

why would you do that to yourself? teenagers: you are exempt, its a useful tool for social exploration. anyone older than 24: you're pathetic

Re:i'm not on facebook (1, Troll)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452480)

For something you don't use, your sure do have strong opinions about it. Your giant ego also leads you to believe that everyone uses it exactly the same way, because that's what you hear on the news and you can't possibly fathum how others might use the site.

But please, let me help you tone down your own ego; no one cares that you're not on facebook either. You're not important enough that WE need to know that.

Re:i'm not on facebook (2, Insightful)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452526)

it seems like a giant ego bonfire, it seems like a massive waste of time to tweak minor pointless trivia about your social life. just the very thought of it fills me with tedium and exhaustion. it seems to reinforce the worst aspects of people's personalities: their vanity, their shallowness, and their mediocrity. i mean who really fucking cares, including yourself, about this running narrative about the pointless banalities of your life?

yada yada yada...

If you're so bothered by it, why are you wasting so much time ranting about it here? Simply ignore and move on... Oh, I see, it is we, the ones with the giant egos that need to listen to YOUR viewpoint. Hypocrite.

I'll grant you a lot of the crap on social networking sites is indeed ego fanning, but I'll also counter with the fact that it makes keeping in touch with distant family and friends almost trivially easy, which can strengthen relationship bonds, and that's generally a good thing.

Re:i'm not on facebook (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453366)

And, more importantly, it can help you keep in touch with friends in the real world. EG: a buddy I haven't seen in real life in a couple years is throwing a housewarming party. I wouldn't know about this if it weren't for computerized social networking. I might go with a few other people who used to hang out in that era. Or, someone post that they are going to a fundraising event... they don't have to annoy each one of their friends, people simply decide to go based on the fact that 1)it seems to be a worthwhile cause and 2)they will actually know someone there. Also works for just going out on the town for a night.

Re:i'm not on facebook (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452558)

Damn dude, you're pretty depressing. Got a Livejournal account?

Re:i'm not on facebook (1)

Jeian (409916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452690)

Disagree. I'm friends on Facebook with people I know from my childhood (like the family who lived down the street from me for 10 years) and can keep up with what's happening with them. I'm fairly certain that not everybody on my friend-list would remember to e-mail me about major events in their life, but if they post it on Facebook, there it is.

"i mean who really fucking cares, including yourself, about this running narrative about the pointless banalities of your life?"

My friends do. Maybe they don't care about every single status update I post, but a lot of them care about the more significant things I post - including people who I wouldn't remember to e-mail.

Re:i'm not on facebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452708)

is this something you have to have a tv to understand? I'm better than everyone else.

Re:i'm not on facebook (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452866)

Henry David Thoreau said it best 150 years ago:

Just so hollow and ineffectual, for the most part, is our ordinary conversation. Surface meets surface. When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.

Life Without Principle, 1863

Tell me who your friends are ... (1)

tukang (1209392) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452352)

... and I will tell you who you are. Nothing new here please move along.

Re:Tell me who your friends are ... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452988)

Not necessarily. I'm not on facebook, but my meatspace friends run the gamut from poor to rich, in all sizes, shapes, colors, and political views. Nerds and construction workers, bureaucrats (I live in the state capital), waitresses. In fact, since I have far more female friends than male friends (I like women), someone might think I was female.

Project Gaydar (1)

pkalkul (450979) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452382)

A lot of replies to this seem to be dismissing it as irrelevant. Yes, social networks are not private. But determining aspects of your identity that you yourself do not choose to post can have serious implications. Project Gaydar [boston.com] at MIT showed that it was possible to determine sexual orientation via social networks. In many parts of the world, including the US, this matters. As might information about what preexisting medical conditions you might have...

I'm impressed (not) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452406)

oh wow, in an extremely closed and controlled system (university) they can find out my major, dorm, and year I graduated...wow, I'm stunned by the power of that algorithm. This is so silly, I'm sure that by looking at my friends addresses one can probably tell which neighborhood I live in, but that's about it. Big deal.

Yeah... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452416)

When I was in middle school during the mid-90's (I turn 26 next month), I started getting into chat rooms (as many people did around that time.) My parents taught me from an early age to be very aware of what information I put out there, and it has served me quite well. I rarely talk about work, and if I do it is done in a very generic, non-identifiable way. Most of my friends on social networking sites are from K-12, and I use it primarily to keep in contact with them.

Bad Summary, or Bad Premise (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452438)

This might work pretty well for a small, relatively tight group like students at a particular university. I bet it gets worse as we get out into the real world and develop friends with wider interests from different backgrounds.

My Wife (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452482)

Has a gazillion "friends" for FarmVille- does that have any correlation with her real relationships? I think not.

Ha! They all laughed when .... (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452586)

Who is laughing now? When I cut off all contacts with the real world and spent all my time playing on line games in the cyberworld, they were all laughing and told me to get a life. Now, all their information is available for all on line retailers and the data bases that connect cyber names with real world names. My cyber name is the only one that resolves to NULL in their real world names data base and crashes their systems!

I assure you, me becoming the savior of the world by crashing the databases of these creeps is entirely inadvertent. My real regret is that I have not yet been able to crash the real world.

Friends are now always public - nasty facebook. (2, Informative)

dwheeler (321049) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452634)

Facebook has now changed their policy to eliminate privacy, in particular, friend lists are always public [facebook.com]. At one time you could make this private, as noted in this report. I made my own friend list private when I first joined it, but Facebook now ignores my configuration. If you can make friend lists private, please let know how... it sure isn't easy, and Facebook's current documentation says that it cannot be made private.

Making public the private data you gave a company, without your consent, should be illegal.... but it appears that Facebook can do it with impunity. I've mostly stopped using Facebook because Facebook seems to be becoming actively hostile to privacy of any kind.

Re:Friends are now always public - nasty facebook. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452782)

Facebook has now changed their policy to eliminate privacy, in particular, friend lists are always public. At one time you could make this private, as noted in this report. I made my own friend list private when I first joined it, but Facebook now ignores my configuration. If you can make friend lists private, please let know how... it sure isn't easy, and Facebook's current documentation says that it cannot be made private.

Making public the private data you gave a company, without your consent, should be illegal.... but it appears that Facebook can do it with impunity. I've mostly stopped using Facebook because Facebook seems to be becoming actively hostile to privacy of any kind.

Or perhaps it's reflecting on the true nature of Facebook's "privacy"? Given all the crap about Facebook affecting employment, you'd think that even if you had a fully private profile people will still find out. And given the way people re-broadcast stuff you may have marked as "friends only", I'd say the privacy settings are close to nil anyways.

I'd say the privacy changes reflect the true privacy nowadays. Even though your profile is friends only, it's still public since your friends may just up and re-post your "private" stuff. Or since it can be made available to apps too, well.

Facebook's privacy setting is nothing more than telling your friend a secret - you have to trust them to not spread it around. If you didn't want the secret revealed, your best bet is to not tell anyone.

Re:Friends are now always public - nasty facebook. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31452852)

you gave them all that data and your consent to do whatever they wanted with it.
Next time you are about to tick the "I have read and agree to the terms and conditions" box, I suggest actually reading it...

I thought it was You Are Who You Eat... (-1, Offtopic)

croftj (2359) | more than 4 years ago | (#31452776)

I guess facebook runs by different rules than regular life.

Not true at all (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453112)

I friended most of my high school classmates, whom are all morons. I'm not. I just didn't want to be rude.

panopticon (1)

unchiujar (1030510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453168)

For a while the question from my perspective has been how long until we live in a panopticon not what can I do to keep privacy on the web ? The results in the article are pretty obvious, the only way to keep information secret about yourself seems to become a hermit and use technologies from two centuries ago.

Sometimes you want this info to be public (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453182)

The last time I was looking for a job, I searched my name on Google and came up with a lot of hits that had nothing to do with me. Some were good, some were bad. In all, there were at least four distinct people on the first six pages of hits, with my name.

For example, there was one person who is a police officer in another state that was on the first page. If someone were to mistake me for that person, I wouldn't mind. However, there is no way someone would mistake me for him, due to age, occupation, and location differences.

Another person on the first page was someone I definitely did NOT want to be mistaken for. Unfortunately, this person works in IT, went to school in the same state as I did, and is just a couple years younger than I am. The possibility for mistaking me for this person was rather high.

There are a few ways I could fix this problem, but most would take way too long. I could publish some papers, speak at conferences, etc., but that would take years to get me on the first page of search results. Alternatively, I could make my Facebook profile public, even though it wouldn't have as much impact. It was perfectly clean, since I don't participate in any questionable activities (street racing, binge drinking, drugs, bad-mouthing bosses, etc). I also don't include information about religion/politics. My friends have similar values that I do, so even if someone were to infer information about me based on them, they would have every reason to believe that I am a normal, decent person, with strong morals and good character. Sure, this won't immediately get the real me to show up on the first page of search results, but it was a quick and simple thing that got me moving toward my goal.

Fine, for college students, it is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453212)

There are a couple of things here...

1) *IF* facebook still exists in 10-15 years, and is still popular then, how many people who have graduated and moved on will still update facebook? Is there the potential for forgotten information to be used against them? For example, your forgotten facebook profile has you listed with a person from Pakistan as being friends and you apply for a job that requires a security clearance..

2) For people who are no longer in school, what does this say, if anything? Or is it exponentially more difficult then? Or rather than college, does it apply to work? For example, if X % of your friends all work for company Y and part of that X% is person A but they're all friends with everyone else in that X%, does that also imply that they once worked for company Y? (This seems rather obvious...)

3) What about the exclusions? For example, if you have a group of 20 people and they're all friends with each other except one pair, what does that tell you about the relationship between those two? What are the odds that they've (a) had a disagreement and no longer talk (b) were in a relationship and broke up (c) don't need facebook to know they're friends or (d) just not friends?

Of course, being AC (and thus friendless), I qualify for (3).

Correlation (1)

durnurd (967847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31453224)

I see a correlation between the 20% of friends and 80% success rate. So all they have to do is gather data from 0% of friends, and they're 100% likely to guess the user's info!

IF they can get linkage data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31453354)

Only people on my friends list on Facebook even know I'm on Facebook, and they already know me. My account is quite well locked down, there's no evidence of my existance unless you're on my friends list, and even the email that FB has for me is a special one used only there, so there's no linking me that way either.

FB could make some inferences since they have the data. But not anyone else. Yes, I've blocked every app too.

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