Millions of Facebook Users Ignore Privacy Options, Risk Exposing Personal Data

Have you reviewed your Facebook privacy settings lately? Now might be a good time to take another look.
According to a recent survey published by Consumer Reports on May 3, an estimated 13 million Facebook users in the US don’t use, or don’t even know about, the social network’s privacy controls. The US product-testing organization surveyed 2,002 online households across the U.S. (1,340 of which are active on Facebook) for its annual State of the Net report.
The report projected that, during the past year, Americans “liked”, updated their profiles, and posted status updates with a range of personally-identifiable information, including:
  • 39.3 million identified a family member in a profile
  • 20.4 million included their birth date and year in their profile
  • 7.7 million “liked” a Facebook page pertaining to a religious affiliation
  • 4.8 million posted where and when they’re going on given days, tipping off potential burglars
  • 4.7 million “liked” Facebook pages about health conditions that can be used against them by insurers
  • 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall
  • 2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall
  • 2.3 million “liked” a page regarding sexual orientation
In the press release, CR highlights tips for users on privacy controls and staying more secure on Facebook:
  1. Think before typing. Even if a user deletes his/her account (which takes Facebook about a month), some info can remain in Facebook’s computers for up to 90 days.
  2. Regularly check Facebook exposure. Each month, users should check out how their page looks to others. Review individual privacy settings if necessary.
  3. Protect basic information. Set the audience for profile items, such as town or employer. And users should remember: Sharing info with “friends of friends” could expose them to tens of thousands.
  4. Know what can’t be protected. Each user’s name and profile picture are public. To protect one’s identity, they should not use a photo, or use one that doesn’t show their face.
  5. “UnPublic” the wall. Set the audience for all previous wall posts to just friends.
  6. Turn off Tag Suggest. If users would rather not have Facebook automatically recognize their face in photos, they could disable that feature in their privacy settings. The information will be deleted.
  7. Block apps and sites that snoop. Unless users intercede, friends can share personal information about them with apps. To block that, they should use controls to limit the info apps can see.
  8. Keep wall posts from friends. Users don’t have to share every wall post with every friend. They can also keep certain people from viewing specific items in their profile.
  9. When all else fails, deactivate. When a user deactivates their account, Facebook retains their profile data but the account is made temporarily inaccessible. Deleting an account, on the other hand, makes it inaccessible forever.

CR also notes that it would like to see Facebook fix a security lapse that permits users to set up weak passwords including some six-letter dictionary word – a risk that they’ve documented for 2 years now.

We agree Facebook should set higher standards, but it’s also important to inform users of how they can reasonably achieve those standards with a tool like LastPass.

If you’re using Facebook, run the LastPass Security Challenge today (located under your Tools menu in the LastPass browser icon) to check how strong your password is for Facebook. You can help your friends and family better secure their Facebook accounts by showing them how they can use LastPass to generate secure passwords and keep their data in one convenient, safe location.

The LastPass Team


  • DAOWAce says:

    7.7 million “liked” a Facebook page pertaining to a religious affiliation
    4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall
    2.6 million discussed their recreational use of alcohol on their wall

    Well, this is why I detest humanity.

  • Solidus says:

    I’m one of the millions who ignore it, too.

    But, then again, I ignore Facebook altogether.