Facebook privacy confusion rife as ID theft soarsMany revealing more than they realise

23 May 2012

Facebook screenshot

Check your Facebook security settings carefully

A new Which? survey of Facebook users reveals that many people are confused about what information they've made public.

Our poll shows that  61% are concerned about strangers accessing information they've posted, and 59% say they can't keep up with the number of changes Facebook has made to its data security settings. This is an 11% rise since the last survey in September 2011, and a reflection of the new Facebook Timeline feature which shows all your Facebook activity in one place.

ID fraud on the rise

The findings are particularly worrying because recent figures show that identity theft is growing fast. In the first three months of 2012, almost 36,000 cases of ID fraud were recorded - a 40% increase on the same period last year. The rise has been linked to fraudulent activity online, where fraudsters access, steal, trade and use unguarded personal information.

Which? asked online security experts to study the postings of 10 volunteers - including Which? editor Martyn Hocking - all of whom used Facebook and other social networks. Our experts found that users were posting sensitive personal information such as their place of birth, phone number and photos of the inside of their home, without applying secure privacy settings.

An ID fraudster could easily use such personal information to gain more, with a view to stealing an identity.

Posting on Facebook

Facebook's new Timeline can make old posts and personal information more visible than before. The social network encourages users to check their security settings, and limit visibility of past posts where appropriate - but many are struggling to keep up with the volume of changes. 

The Which? survey of 680 Facebook users took place in May 2012.

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