In case you needed yet another reason to avoid Facebook, a study out of the University of British Columbia has found that nearly one quarter of adult Facebook users have snooped on Facebook accounts belonging to their romantic partners, family members, and even their friends.
While it is no secret that people can and will keep tabs on you by looking at your Facebook account if you make it public, this has nothing to do with the privacy settings on your account. In this case, the nosy friends and family members are using the victims’ own smartphones and computers to access their accounts. This means they can see their private messages, videos, and pictures.
People who are close to you can snoop around your Facebook account if you leave it signed in on a phone or computer that they can access. There are a number of reasons they might want to do this. Some people are just bored or curious, while others do it in order to play a joke on the victim, such as changing their status or profile picture to something funny. However, when people do it out of animosity or jealousy, things can take a darker turn.
According to the paper’s senior author, Computer Science Professor Ivan Beschastnikh, “jealous snoops” often plan their action ahead of time. They typically focus on looking through the victim’s personal messages and spend 15 minutes or more poking around. He said that in many cases, the snooping ended the relationship in question.
These findings illustrate just how ineffective a device PINs and passwords can be when it comes to preventing insiders from accessing people’s accounts without authorization. The paper’s other senior author, Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Kosta Beznosov, says that although there is no single way to prevent this entirely, logging out of your account regularly and changing your passwords frequently can help.
Of course, the best solution would be to skip using Facebook entirely. If you think it’s bad to have your loved ones access your account, have you ever stopped to think about all the information Facebook collects about you? Facebook has long tracked users’ activities to refine the ads it delivers, and they even track users after they have logged out of the site.
Facebook collects all kinds of personal information, which it shares with data brokers to target advertising to individuals. They keep track of data ranging from your name and phone number to your income level, homes, and other property, purchases, political affiliations, education level, and even deaths and diseases in your family. Unfortunately, most people do not take the time to read the site’s terms and conditions when they sign up and they don’t realize this is occurring. Opting out can be quite difficult, and data security experts say it doesn’t help much anyway.
On top of that, studies show that regular use of Facebook can make people miserable. One long-term study found that passive users in particular are more likely to develop feelings of loneliness, envy, and misery. Previous research had found a link between excessive Facebook use and depression. Using the site can alter people’s perception of reality, leading them to believe that everyone else has a more exciting and interesting life and causing them to feel dissatisfied.
The site has also come under fire for favoring news stories with a liberal slant and using biased fact checkers to censor independent journalism.
It’s clear that there are plenty of reasons to avoid Facebook, from the possibility of a jealous loved one nosing around in your account to the tendency for the unrealistic world the social media site paints to make people feel miserable about themselves. For all of these reasons, the site is starting to lose favor, and it won’t be surprising to see its active user base drop significantly in the years to come.