Social Networks and Social Security Numbers

The latest edition of Ouch! Newsletter issued an article on the risks of trusting too much personal information to social networks.  The article include a list of tips to avoid getting in trouble, most of them an exercise in applying common sense.

ID theft is a constant threat as thing can get really serious out there. Alessandro Acquisti team of Carnegie-Mellon University conducted a study in which they were able to guess Social Security Numbers using information commonly available.

Acquisti and Ralph Gross report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were able to make the predictions using data available in public records as well as information such as birthdates cheerfully provided on social networks such as Facebook.

For people born after 1988 _ when the government began issuing numbers at birth _ the researchers were able to identify, in a single attempt, the first five Social Security digits for 44 percent of individuals. And they got all nine digits for 8.5 percent of those people in fewer than 1,000 attempts

Social networking is here to stay and , if you do it, make sure to practice ‘safe networking’.



Social networks are exploding in popularity. Forty-three percent of the online community now uses social networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. This is up from 27 percent a year ago, reports The Conference Board and TNS.


The top concerns of social networking members — expressed by about 50 percent — are viruses/malware, exposure of information to strangers and lack of privacy. Women tend to be moderately more concerned than men. Only 14 percent claim they have no concerns, compared to 22 percent of men.

From a recent Conference Board Report.

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