Consumer Reports: 13 Million U.S. Facebook Users Don’t Use Privacy Controls, Risk Sharing Updates Beyond Their “Friends”

Posted on May 4 2012 - 6:00am by Editorial Staff

In a recent study conducted by Consumer Reports, it shows 4.8 million people have shared details about their plans for a certain day, making it publicly known when their houses are going to be empty, and 4.7 million have ‘liked’ a Facebook page related to health issues or treatments – exposing details that can be used against them by insurance companies.

Out of the 150 million Facebook users in the US, almost 9% are sharing personal information. A projected 7 million households with members on Facebook have been harassed or threatened or had users log in to their accounts without permission, a 30% increase on the previous year. While Facebook has highly customizable privacy tools, giving users control over how much information apps are allowed to see, according to the study, only 37% of them have actually put this feature to use.

Consumer Reports released some interesting figures on what kinds of personal information is being shared publicly online:

  • 39.3 million identified a family member in a profile
  • 20.4 million included their birth date and year in their profile
  • 7.7 million “liked” a Facebook page pertaining to a religious affiliation
  • 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall
  • 2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall
  • 2.3 million “liked” a page regarding sexual orientation

Consumer Reports offers users 9 tips on how to understand privacy tools:

  • Think before typing. Even if a user deletes his/her account (which takes Facebook about a month), some info can remain in Facebook’s computers for up to 90 days.
  • Regularly check Facebook exposure. Each month, users should check out how their page looks to others. Review individual privacy settings if necessary.
  • Protect basic information. Set the audience for profile items, such as town or employer. And users should remember: Sharing info with “friends of friends” could expose them to tens of thousands.
  • Know what can’t be protected. Each user’s name and profile picture are public. To protect one’s identity, they should not use a photo, or use one that doesn’t show their face.
  • “UnPublic” the wall. Set the audience for all previous wall posts to just friends.
  • Turn off Tag Suggest. If users would rather not have Facebook automatically recognize their face in photos, they could disable that feature in their privacy settings. The information will be deleted.
  • Block apps and sites that snoop. Unless users intercede, friends can share personal information about them with apps. To block that, they should use controls to limit the info apps can see.
  • Keep wall posts from friends. Users don’t have to share every wall post with every friend. They can also keep certain people from viewing specific items in their profile.
  • When all else fails, deactivate. When a user deactivates their account, Facebook retains their profile data but the account is made temporarily inaccessible. Deleting an account, on the other hand, makes it inaccessible forever.
About the Author
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at I2Mag is a team of subject experts led by Karan Chopra.