Some people might think that online privacy is, well, a private matter. If you don't want personal information getting out online, then you can just not put it out there. Right? 1.________________ Friends can play a big role in your privacy, new data show. And the more they share on a social network, the more that social network can figure out about you.
Someone who joins a social network — such as Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook —wants to find their friends. Often, the social network can help. Many apps offer to import contact lists from your phone or e-mail. These apps then use that information to find matches with people already in the network, and suggest them to you.It's very convenient. And sharing those contact lists seems harmless, notes David Garcia. 2. ____________ "People giving contact lists, they're not doing anything wrong," he says. "You are their friend. You gave them the e-mail address and phone number." Most times, you probably want to stay in touch with this person. You might even want to Snapchat them or see their Instagram pics.
But once that person shares a contact list with the social network, some information on everyone in that list is now being shared around. 3___________ This is a set of predictions about you. It's based on all of that information from other people. The concept of a shadow profile first came to light with a Facebook bug in 2013. That bug shared the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of some 6 million users with all of their friends. Unfortunately, that information wasn't supposed to go public. Oops.
Facebook fixed the bug. 4.__________ But the users had never given Facebook their phone numbers, and had never put them on their profiles. The social network merely filled in the missing information for them. Facebook had collected those numbers from the contact lists innocently provided by a user's friends.A shadow profile had become reality.It's creepy. It is not, however, surprising that a social platform could take names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers and match them with users already on the network. But Garcia wondered if social networks would also be able to build shadow profiles of people who had never been on the network at all.
Internet archaeology To find out, he turned to a now-defunct social network called Friendster. Launched in 2002, it was a social-networking site that preceded Facebook. In 2008, the social site boasted more than 115 million users. But the next year, people began jumping ship for other sites. By 2015, Friendster had shut down. Millions of abandoned public profiles vanished.Or did they?
The Internet Archive is a nonprofit online library. 5._________ - Garcia dug through the records in a process he calls Internet Archaeology. He named it after a satirical video from The Onion. In it, an internet archaeologist announces that he has (ironically) discovered Friendster. But internet archeology can be a real thing, Garcia explains. "The time scale of online media is very fast. But it's still studying things in society that don't exist anymore," he adds.
Garcia hunted for friend links within Friendster's data. Most people don't have a random assortment of friends. Married people tend to be friends with other married people, for example. But people also have connections that complicate the ability to predict who is connected to whom. People who identified as gay men were more likely to be friends with other gay men. But gay men were also likely to be friends with women. Straight women were more likely to be friends with men.
6.________ The more people in the social network who shared their own personal information, the more information the network received about their contacts. And its predictions about people not on the network got better, too.
"You are not in full control of your privacy," he now concludes. If your friend is on a social platform, so are you. And you don't have a choice in this matter. Garcia published his findings August 4 in the journal Science Advances.
But it might be more accurate, he argues, to imagine our personal information as wet paint. We are covered in wet paint of our own personal color. If we touch someone else, we leave a handprint in our unique paint color. 7.__________.