DELETING your social media won’t stop tech firms from tracking your every move. That’s the terrifying conclusion from a new study that investigated how apps like Facebook and Twitter can follow people who don’t even use social media sites.
Last year saw Facebook admit to a number of privacy blunders that left tens of millions of users exposed. Many users responded by simply deleting their Facebook accounts – their only hope of regaining control over privacy.
But research published in Nature Human Behaviour shows that account deletion isn’t enough. Data scientists were able to accurately predict a person’s posts without ever looking at their social profile.
“There’s no place to hide on a social network,” said Lewis Mitchell, co-author and senior lecturer in applied mathematics at the University of Adelaide. More than 30million Twitter posts from 13,905 users were gathered up by the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide.
Researchers were then able to use the information from Twitter messages of 8 or 9 of a person’s contacts – and then predict that person’s later tweets. According to the study, even if a person leaves a social media site (or never even joined), posts from friends can still provide about 95% of the “potential predictive accuracy”.
“You think you’re giving up your information, but you’re giving up your friends’ information too,” said James Bagrow, a mathematician at the University of Vermont who led the research.
It means that normal people will struggle to avoid the clutches of social media sites, who can build profiles on people and use this for ad-targeting purposes.
Even if you don’t have social media accounts, it’s still possible for websites to track your movements across the web – building a picture of what you like and don’t like. This can then be used to show you ads that companies think you may be interested in.
And even if you never use any social media site, it’s still possible to build up a profile on you, researchers warn. “You alone don’t control your privacy on social media platforms,” said Bagrow.
“Your friends have a say too.”
Facebook recently denied being behind a sinister conspiracy to harvest your face through ’10 Year Challenge’ posts.
And in 2018, the company admitted to letting outside firms read your private messages.
Facebook’s value plummeted in 2018 after privacy controversies made investors lose faith in billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Do you trust Facebook to take care of your private information? Let us know in the comments!
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