In the UK 32,175,460 individuals have an active Facebook account

[1]. 500m hours are spent on Facebook every month, with each user spending on average 22minutes per visit [2]. An average Facebook user has 100+ likes associated with their profile, with that number varying depending on age; 20 year olds can have up to 300+, with 1000+ not being uncommon [3].

Researchers from Cambridge were able to apply logarithms to predict religion, politics, race and sexual orientation based on ‘likes’ on Facebook. These are all personal sensitive pieces of information, which if in the wrong hands can be used in a discriminatory way. 58,000 individuals volunteered for psychometric testing, which along with their likes and demographics confirmed the results from Cambridge. Sharing ‘likes’ and ‘pages’ allows individuals to be categorised and have their behaviour predicted, which for digital marketing agencies is a huge advantage, but it is sharing information that is far more personal and sensitive than people realise. Privacy concerns are being confirmed as there is a lack of transparency in how the data will be used.

The social media giant has developed an application that makes it easier to find user’s personal details. The application, Facebook Graph, will cope with requests like ‘all pictures of John and I in Istanbul in 2009’. The application will sift through wall posts, ‘check-ins’, and photographs to satisfy the search. Information that previously would of taken hours to find is now available in an instant. Facebook Graph is being rolled out in phases, ‘to give people a chance to amend their privacy settings, and make sure they are aware of what is public on their accounts’ [4]. During the first phase journalists searched for ‘current Tesco employees who like horses’ and ‘Jews who like bacon’ [5], the search results listed the profiles of people who matched the search criteria. There were also lots of other searches which gave away more incriminating details of people’s personal lives.

Individuals need to rethink, and fast, how much information they have visible on their profiles and ultimately how much of their information needs to be on the internet in the first place. The key is to raise awareness and knowledge of the risks through training so individuals understand how the changes will affect them.

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[4] Lars Rasmussen – brains behind Facebook Graph