Your Facebook account may reveal the information that you want to keep private, through the friends of your social media contacts, Stanford researchers have found. Researchers found that among people with any online presence, protecting personal data is becoming increasingly difficult.

The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, 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.

Given the prevalence of such data, the researchers sought to better understand what sorts of statistical inferences might end up revealing traits people have sought to conceal. “In social data, some things are more predictable than others. We set out to study the relationship between friend networks and predictability, and ended up uncovering an inference mechanism that hadn’t been noticed before,” said Johan Ugander, assistant professor at Stanford University in the US.

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Vijay Nanda

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