Here’s what your ‘friends of friends’ can re­veal about you

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Lifestyle -

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.

PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

Ac­cord­ing to the find­ings of a re­cent study, pro­tect­ing per­sonal data is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for peo­ple with any on­line pres­ence

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