Out of 800 million Facebook users worldwide, Almost 18% of users said they had never set, or didn’t know about, Facebook’s privacy tools. And 28 percent shared all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends.
The number of subscribers grows daily because Facebook makes it so easy to keep up with friends, family, and colleagues, discover great content, connect to causes, share photos, drum up business, and learn about fun events. To deliver this service, Facebook and other social networks collect enormous amounts of highly sensitive information—and distribute it more quickly and widely than traditional consumer data-gathering firms ever could. That’s great when it helps you find old classmates or see ads for things you actually want to buy. But how much information is really being collected about you? How is it being used? And could it fall into the wrong hands?
Some people are sharing too much. Our projections suggest that 4.8 million people have used Facebook to say where they planned to go on a certain day (a potential tip-off for burglars) and that 4.7 million “liked” a Facebook page about health conditions or treatments (details an insurer might use against you).
Facebook collects more data than you may imagine. For example, did you know that Facebook gets a report every time you visit a site with a Facebook “Like” button, even if you never click the button, are not a Facebook user, or are not logged in?
Your data is shared more widely than you may wish. Even if you have restricted your information to be seen by friends only, a friend who is using a Facebook app could allow your data to be transferred to a third party without your knowledge.
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Apps can pose privacy risks
One way your data can escape is through Facebook games and apps. Whenever you run one, it gets your public information, such as your name, gender, and profile photo, as well as your list of friends even if you haven’t made that list public. And if you give the app certain permissions, it can peer deeper into your data and even see information that your friends share with you, unless they have specifically forbidden sharing with apps in their own privacy settings.
Critics say the issue goes beyond specific notifications to the fact that one company now controls such a vast biometric database about so many people. Facebook already stores more than 60 billion photos and says the number grows by 250 million a day. Its recent acquisition of the popular mobile photo-sharing service Instagram promises to add even more images to this cache.
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