Here’s what your ‘friends of friends’ can reveal about you
Your Facebook account might reveal the information that you want to keep private, through the friends of your social media friends, Stanford researchers have found.
The study shows that there are more ways than previously thought to reveal demographic traits that people might be trying to conceal. Researchers used databases that reflect the kinds of information that websites make available to advertisers or reveal to outside groups when people allow third parties to access their social profiles.
Researchers, who have studied social media relationships, have found that we tend to friend people of roughly our same age, race and political belief. So even if a person does not reveal their age, race or political views, these traits are easily and accurately inferred from friendship studies. Researchers call this tendency homophily, which stems from the Greek words for love of sameness.
However, not all unknown traits are easy to predict using friend studies. Gender, for instance, exhibits what researchers call weak homophily in online contexts.
“If an unknown person in a social network has mostly male friends, there’s an almost equally good chance they could be female, or vice versa,” said Kristen Altenburger, a PhD student at Stanford.
The research shows that it is possible to infer certain concealed traits — gender being the first — by studying the friends of our friends. This technique works because researchers have described a new social structure they call monophily, Greek for “love of one,” where people have extreme preferences for traits but not necessarily their own trait.
They observe that when there’s monophily in a network, it becomes possible to predict traits of individuals based on friends of friends, even in situations where there’s no homophily.
According to the findings of a recent study, protecting personal data is becoming increasingly difficult for people with any online presence