Researchers at the University of Vermont are reporting that individual choice is not really an option when it comes to social media. The study revealed that sites such as Facebook and Twitter can even compromise the privacy of those who choose not to engage on these platforms.
The analysis presents powerful evidence that, when it comes to social media, an individual’s behavior is no longer their own private business.
The investigation was focused on more than thirty million public Twitter posts by 13,905 users. Information within the Twitter messages from 8 or 9 of a person’s contacts made it possible for the experts to accurately predict the individual’s future tweets without even looking at their news feed.
The study also revealed that after a person closes a social media account, or never joins in the first place, the online posts and words of their friends still provide about 95 percent of the “potential predictive accuracy” of a person’s future activities. In other words, using absolutely none of your own personal data, others may be able decipher your daily plans.
Study lead author James Bagrow said that when you sign up for Facebook or another social media platform, “you think you’re giving up your information, but you’re giving up your friends’ information too!”
The study findings suggest that any type of user, including a company or the government, can accurately profile a person from their friends, even if they have never been on social media before. “There’s no place to hide in a social network,” said study co-author Lewis Mitchell.
Professor Jim Bagrow added, “You alone don’t control your privacy on social media platforms. Your friends have a say too.”
The study is published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.
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