TAMPA, Fla. -- A new report released Thursday by Consumer Reports should be a wake-up call for all Facebook users.
The consumer-product testing organization says the information you post on the social network site can be used against you, and in ways you might not even imagine.
Attorney Kevin Jolly was shocked when he found someone had created a fake page in his name and used it to send messages to his friends.
“He portrayed me as a very flamboyant gay man who wanted to share his sexual desires in a very, very graphic way," said Jolly.
The problems did not end there. When he contacted Facebook, they did not remove the fake profile immediately.
“Their security department was horrible," said Jolly.
In fact, it took several emails from Jolly before Facebook took down the imposter profile.
According to a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey, Jolly is not alone.
“We estimate that seven million Facebook users ran into trouble in the past year, everything from someone using their login without their permission to them being harassed or threatened," said Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports.
That number is up 30 percent in the last year.
Furthermore, Consumer Reports says some of the personal information widely revealed on Facebook can come back to haunt you.
In 2011, an estimated 4.8 million people posted where they’d be on a certain day. That is an easy way for burglars to know when to strike. And that criminal could be your Facebook friend or a friend of your friend.
Around 4.7 million people "liked" a page about medical conditions or treatments. Those are details that a health insurer might use against you.
Consumer Reports says job seekers should also be very wary about what they post.
“Employers can also look for clues in wall posts and photos that may play into whether you get hired," said Kleman.
Even the government is also peeking at your data. Consumer Reports says a 2009 IRS training manual shows how agents can use social networks like Facebook to “assist in resolving a taxpayer case.”
Facebook allows users to restrict who sees your wall posts and photos by updating your privacy settings. But Consumer Reports' survey found 17 percent of Facebook members have not adjusted those settings.
Another major issue on Facebook is cyberbulling. Consumer Reports estimates 800,000 minors were the victim of some type of cyberbulling in the past year.
Children under 13 are not supposed to have Facebook accounts. While the social network has closed hundreds of thousands of those accounts, an estimated five million underage children are still on Facebook.
You can read Consumer Reports' complete report on Facebook on their website, including advice on how to set your privacy settings by going to www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/06/facebook-your-privacy/index.htm .
This report is based on an article in the June 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The issue will appear be on newsstands from May 8 to June 4.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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