Privacy and Security on Facebook


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According to an early 2013 report from, Facebook still maintains the lead for American user engagement for a single web site — averaging a minute short of 6.75 hours per user in the month of Mar 2013. While this number is a decline from the same period in 2012 (with an average of nearly 7.25 hours per user), it’s obvious that American Facebook users spend a considerable amount of time on the site — more than any other social media site — revealing facts both mundane and interesting about their lives — facts that might be of interest to other people and companies, including those with ill intent.

In fact, according to a study by Alessandro Acquisti discussed in a TED Talk, American employers often judge job candidates who post to social media more harshly than equally skilled candidates who did not post — regardless of whether posts were negative or positive or not even relevant to the potential employer. How potential employers find your Facebook information about you is beyond  the scope of this article, but we do cover some relevant security and privacy statistics and offer some tips to guard yourself.

The Facebook Facts
Please note: All statistics below refer to U.S. Facebook users unless specifically indicated.

  • 1.26 — Number in billions of monthly active worldwide Facebook users  (as of  Oct 2013).
  • 83 — Number in millions of fake profiles (worldwide; as of late Jun 2013).
  • 7.5 — Approximate percentage of fake profiles (worldwide).
  • 128 — Number in millions of daily active Facebook users (mid Aug 2013)
  • 6 3/4 hours — Approximate average amount of time Facebook users spent on the site in Mar 2013.
  • 101 — Approximate number in millions of Facebook users on mobile devices (app and mobile web browsers).
  • 128 — Approximate total number in millions of Facebook users on both desktop computers and mobile devices.
  • 78 — Approximate percentage of Facebook users who access the site on a mobile device.
  • 76 — Percentage of smartphone market that Facebook reaches with their app (primarily) or via mobile web browsers.
  • 23 — Percentage of time spent on mobile apps that is attributed to Facebook use.
  • 303 — Approximate number of “friends” a Facebook user (12+ years old; worldwide) has in their network. This number varies significantly by age group. Research estimates have suggested numbers of 500+ for Facebook users in the 12-24 age range, but much less (low hundreds) for those in older age ranges.
  • 245 — The average number of friends that U.S. users have in their Facebook network, according to a Pew Research study in early 2012.
  • 600 — The approximate number of people that the average person knows overall (Facebook or otherwise), according to a New York Times report in early 2013. Note that other studies suggest a figure of 290.
  • 25 — Percentage of Facebook users (worldwide) who do not look at or ignore their Facebook privacy settings (according to a 2012 Velocity Digital report).
  • 71 — The number of countries whose individual governments made requests for user data to Facebook in the first six months of 2013.
  • 25.6 — The approximate total number in thousands (actual: 25,607) of requests for data made to Facebook by various world governments in that six-month period.
  • 11 — The number in thousands of data requests (minimum) that were made just by the U.S. government.  (U.S. data is reported as a range: 11,000-12,000.)
  • 43 — The approximate percentage (actual: 42.96) of all data requests made just by the U.S. government.
  • 38 — The approximate total number in thousands (actual: 37,954) of Facebook user accounts covered in those requests by all governments.
  • 20 — The number in thousands of Facebook account data requests (minimum) made just by the U.S. government.  (U.S. data is reported as a range: 20,000-21,000.)
  • 53 — The approximate percentage (actual: 52.70) of total account data requests made just by the U.S. government.
  • 2.5 — Number in billions of photos uploaded to Facebook in a single month in 2010
  • 30 — Percentage of photos in a study by Alessandro Aquisti in 2010 (taken of students on a college campus) that were identifiable by off-the-shelf facial recognition software. (Using data mining techniques, the researchers were also able to determine part of identified students’ Social Security numbers.)
  • 10 — Percentage of anonymous online dating profiles identified via facial recognition software in another study by Aquisti.
  • 43 — Percentage of employers (in a study of 2,100 hiring managers) who did not hire a job candidate after researching the latter’s social media profile.
  • 600 — Number in thousands of Facebook logins (worldwide) that are compromised daily (late Oct 2011).
  • 25 — Percentage of consumers whose online data has been breached who later become a victim of identity fraud.
  • 2.78 — Percentage of homes in the U.S. (1 in 36) that will likely be burgled in 2013, according to an FBI 2012 crime report — with or without the help of social media tracking.
  • 1,657 — Average loss in dollars per break-in.
  • 25 — Percentage of teens who claim to have been stalked on Facebook.
  • 55 — Percentage of teens who have given out personal info to strangers on Facebook.
  • 24 — Percentage of teens who have had compromising information made public without their permission.
  • 2.5 — Number of billions of new daily Facebook posts (worldwide).
  • 67 — Percentage of teen users who know how to hide their online activity from parents.
  • 10 — Percentage of children worldwide who experience cyberbullying.
  • 52 — Percentage of teens not telling parents about being cyberbullied.
  • 34 — Percentage of parents who check their children’s social network sites.

Top Five World Governments Requesting Facebook User Data
The following five countries made the most requests to Facebook in the first six months of 2013. (Note: United States data is reported in ranges. In the table below, only the minimum value of U.S. ranges is reported.)

Country Minimum Requests Minimum Accts Requested
United States 11000 20000
India 3245 4144
United Kingdom 1975 2337
Germany 1886 2068
Italy 1705 2306

6 Threats to Your Privacy and Security
Using Facebook incorrectly can expose you to a number of threats. Here’s an incomplete list:

  1. Bullying — You think that your kids are safe at home from bullies? Unfortunately not, and some reports suggest that cyberbullied kids are 2-9 times more likely to commit suicide.
  2. Stalking — Let’s face it; there are lots of creeps out there and one of them may be  stalking you or your children — which is made easier by the fact that more than half of teens give up personal info to strangers on Facebook.
  3. Burglary — While the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests home burglaries have declined since the 1970s, while make their efforts easier? Some burglars do monitor social media to determine which homes will be unoccupied for a long enough period for them to get what they want. Sometimes they do this by hacking accounts; other times they simple make friend requests to people who don’t know them. From there, it could be a simple matter of monitoring posts for location data and extended and absence.
  4. Identity theft — Are you revealing too much info in your Facebook profile? Potential victimizers can combine your Facebook profile info with your other social media profiles to get the data they need. Note that identity theft can happen to your children, too, and this might not be noticed until they’re 18 or older.
  5. Career compromise  — Given two equally qualified candidates, new research shows that if a potential employer checks social media profiles, they tend to have a bias against those who post anything to social media – regardless of the topic or tone; even worse if you say something compromising or have photos of questionable behavior. This may not be surprising given that while most U.S. universities and charities are on Facebook, the percentage of Fortune 500 companies with a Facebook page is considerably less (60% as of Jan 2012).
  6. Reputation damage — It might only take one tagged picture of you cutting loose, doing something one time that you wouldn’t normally do. If an acquaintance not in your Facebook network posts the picture, you might not even know about it — a potential problem if they’ve identified you in text.

Privacy and Security Features
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — who in late 2013 spent an extra $30M buying four extra nearby homes to maintain his real-life privacy — has in the past openly indicated that “privacy is over” and that if he were starting Facebook anew that user information would be public by default. That was nearly three years ago and the company doesn’t seem to have swayed much from that goal. He has also made comments suggesting that Facebook users don’t care about privacy.  Despite this attitude, there are legitimate reasons to maintain your privacy on Facebook and there are ways to do so.
This is not a comprehensive list, but possibly two of the most under-utilized features are “private profile” and friend lists. New Facebook accounts used to be private by default but have since switched to public by default. You need to manually change that setting. As for friend lists, they’re the digital equivalent of social circles. Friends can fall into multiple lists or just one.

15 Things You Should Do To Maintain Privacy on Facebook
According to various reports, teens and adults are being turned down for work due to certain things they’ve posted on their social profiles. To see how potentially embarrassing indiscriminate posting can be, visit
Younger children are at risk, too, given the growing number of underage Facebook users. According to figures by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, children in the 10-13 age range are at most risk from online predators — that age group makes for 22% of targets.
Here are some tips for maintaining your privacy and keeping your profile socially acceptable, as well as for protecting your children if they use Facebook.

  1. Review your Facebook profile information to make sure that if you do have email addresses, employment history and phone numbers listed, that the information is only accessible by friends. Keep in mind that Facebook had a bug in June 2013 that caused the leak of email addresses and/or phone numbers of 6M users — not a large percentage of all users, but enough to potentially cause problems for those compromised. (If you have specific need to prevent someone from finding you, use an alias in your profile — and don’t post any photos of people associated with you. Better still, use a social media service that’s truly private.)
  2. Create friend lists. Name them according to social circles such as family, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, college-chums, teammates, etc. Put everyone in your network on one or more lists. Every time you add someone, assign them to one or more lists. Hide your friend lists to protect your friends, so that strangers cannot see to whom you are connected.
  3. When you post, use friend lists to control who sees your information. Set a default setting (e.g., Friends or Friends of Friends). If you want, you can change the viewability setting for a specific post either before (best practice) or after posting.
  4. Pay careful attention not only to what you are revealing about yourself in something you are about to post, but also look at the icon indicating who can see the post once it’s published. If you see a “globe” icon, that means your post will be public. Make a habit of checking this before posting.
  5. Review your recent posts and consider removing personal details in case you’ve over-shared.
  6. Make sure that your location is not being broadcast. This is especially important if you’re using Facebook on a mobile device. Turn off the location feature.
  7. If you use Facebook for work purposes, split your posts between your personal profile only available to friends and a “Personality/ Business” Page accessible publicly.
  8. Review your friends’ posts if they tag you. Review your comments on friends posts that might be controversial, in case they change their post’s status to Public. Cover your bases by using Google Alerts [] to get email updates for your Facebook profile name, and then take action if necessary.
  9. Even if you keep your Facebook profile private, if you are using Facebook on a mobile device, be absolutely sure that you are using legitimate wi-fi networks and not “honey pots”. If you get on such a network by accident, change your password immediately. If your Facebook profile includes your email address, change your email password.
  10. Change your password regularly — once a month or more often — and don’t repeat any previous password for at least a few months — preferably never.
  11. Use different passwords for different websites and services. Try not to reuse your Facebook password anywhere else — especially for email addresses listed in your Facebook profile.
  12. Pay attention to any privacy setting changes that Facebook announces. You never know when they will affect you or your children.
  13. Make sure your profile name is unique. If there are other people with the same name as you, don’t take chances that your profiles might be confused by someone.
  14. Check your overall privacy settings on the Facebook Privacy Settings and Tools web page [].
  15. Check the settings on your photo albums. Each album and photo can have custom settings.

Check the Facebook Privacy page [] for more details on privacy settings.

6 Additional Tips For Protecting Your Children
If you think your child will not join Facebook until they’re older, consider that an Oct 2013 study by Commonsense Media shows that 38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device (smartphone or tablet). By the age of 8, that number jumps to 72%. Kids are comfortable with mobile devices, so the chances of them joining a social media site such as Facebook as a mobile user increases. When you then consider that, as mentioned above, 10-13 year-olds make up 22% of the targets of online predators, and that there are millions of underage users, it’s better to guide your children into proper use of Facebook and other social media than to hope they’ll “be good” and not use such services.
In addition to the general tips above, here are some additional tips for protecting your Facebook-using children.

  1. If your children are not on Facebook, agree to show them how at an agreed-upon age. Let them know early on what you will expect from them in terms of usage behavior. Better you introduce them and know they’re more likely to trust you as a “friend” if you teach them early and trust them.
  2. Implement usage schedules and rules for your children. E.g., can only post to Facebook between 7pm-9pm, from home, when a parent is home to monitor, if necessary.
  3. Discuss privacy and security with your kids and make sure that they understand what dangers lurk online. With underage Facebook profiles increasing in number, have this discussion as soon as possible.
  4. Require at least your under-age children to friend you (possibly using a joint family profile that one or more adults can use to monitor posts.) If you are not on Facebook and your children are, that’s a very good idea to join. Just don’t embarrass your kids with awkward comments on all of their posts.
  5. Review recent posts by your children and teach them to understand what is acceptable and what is not. Ask them to edit out any personal info as necessary. E.g., they may not realize they’re revealing too much when they post about an upcoming family vacation and how long you’ll be away.
  6. Ask your children to regularly submit a list of Facebook groups they’d like to join so you can review the groups.

Also make sure that your children are not doing any of the things in the following list.

10 Things You Shouldn’t Do on Facebook
It can be easy to forget how your security and privacy gets compromised on social media. Of course, if you’re doing “bad” things and posting about them, don’t expect to have your privacy maintained. Even if you’re just under suspicion of having done something illegal, Facebook and other social media sites give access to profiles to crime fighting and government agents in certain circumstances — which you cannot prevent. However, to keep other people from knowing your social business, here are tips for what not to do on Facebook

  1. Don’t use and similar services if you want to maintain a private profile. It’s not clear in the UI who can or cannot see your “Klout moments”, but given that your private FB posts do appear in Klout (because you had to have given permission in the first place), it’s probably not a good idea.
  2. Don’t use FB apps or mobile apps that “want to post for you” if you’re concerned.
  3. Don’t publicly post that you are away for an extended period of time or imply such — especially if your address is easy to find online or in the white pages.  Some U.S. insurance companies are changing policy rules to exclude claims if they can prove you revealed too much on social media and were burgled as a result.
  4. Don’t give away too much info about your current whereabouts. Turn off “location,” don’t mention you’re away and for how long. This includes multi-day conferences, even if you’re near by.
  5. Don’t publish your full home address contact details anywhere online, including your Facebook profile. If you have a home business, use a P.O. Box or use a service that gives you the equivalent of a physical suite number and signs for packages for you.
  6. Don’t post photos of your children, or at the least do not identify and tag them — especially under-age children.
  7. Don’t post or tag photos of your friends doing “questionable” things. Ask them to check with you as well before posting. Similarly, don’t post pictures of your bad habits. Make sure your friends are not doing so either. You would think all this would be commonsense, but friends of friends might be posting photos of you.
  8. Don’t post “insider information”, especially for publicly-traded companies. You might have family, friends or acquaintances that become sources of such information for you. Carefully consider what you’re revealing before posting about any company or the legal repercussions might be worse than losing a job.
  9. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know – especially if they have very few friends in their profile. At least with LinkedIn, you know how they’re connected to you.
  10. Don’t use short, simple passwords. Use longer passwords, some uppercase letters mixed with lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation. Use multiple unrelated words if it makes it easier for you to remember. It’s particularly important to protect your account if re-use this password for other online services — especially common ones such as email addresses, banking, etc.

References :
Information for this article was collected from the following pages and web sites:

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