Facebook and Twitter Risks Your Privacy Even Without an Account, Scientists Say

If you don’t want social media to undermine your privacy you can just deactivate your account or not sign-up in the first place. Then your actions would be private right? RIGHT?

Apparently, the answer is no. 

In a new study, researchers revealed that a person’s identity and actions can be predicted from what their friends are posting and writings online. Social media is likened to “second-hand smoke.” Even of you don’t use it, you will be affected if the people around you are using it.

Your Friends Might be Compromising Your Privacy

In a study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, a team of scientists from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide, collected more than thirty million public Twitter posts from 13,905 users.

With this data, they demonstrated how it is possible to predict a person’s future tweets using Twitter messages of eight or nine people in contact with the person. And it was so accurate that it looks like they were directly looking at that person’s own Twitter feed.

“We used information theoretic tools to estimate the predictive information in the writings of Twitter users, providing an upper bound on the available predictive information that holds for any predictive or machine learning methods. As few as 8–9 of an individual’s contacts are sufficient to obtain predictability compared with that of the individual alone,” the researchers wrote.

The researchers highlighted that even if you never joined or leaves a social media platform entirely. The online posts and words of your friends can still predict your future activities with an accuracy of about 95 percent. That is, even without any of your personal data.

From another perspective, this means that when you join any social media platform like Twitter or Facebook, you’re not only giving up your privacy but your friends’ too.

Implications to Privacy

“Our results have distinct privacy implications: information is so strongly embedded in a social network that, in principle, one can profile an individual from their available social ties even when the individual forgoes the platform completely,” the researchers wrote.

This means that in theory, other people can investigate precise information about you—even if you have never been to social media. This information can include your favorite brands, places you frequent, your political and religious alignments, and more.  

“You alone don’t control your privacy on social media platforms. Your friends have a say too,” said Jim Bagrow, a mathematician at the University of Vermont and leader of the study.

The impacts of social media platforms on society have been increasing tremendously. It is a powerful factor in national elections, protest movements, and the rise and fall of brands in the market. In this very same platform, we have been dumping large information about ourselves and others.