Facebook fans beware: An interesting new university study shows the more you enjoy Facebook, the more danger you and your family can be in.
Arun Vishwanath, a researcher with the University of Buffalo, wanted to see how effective phishing scams could be on Facebook. He gathered a group of 150 students and discovered something shocking.
The more his research subjects used Facebook, the more likely they were to buy in to the fake scam that he built for his project. Here's how the experiment worked:
He initially surveyed the students about how often they use Facebook, the size of their network, their privacy concerns and whether or not they use Facebook habitually. Six weeks later, every student received a friend request from a fake profile that Vishwanath and his team created.
Two weeks after that, students who accepted the friend request got a message from the fake account advertising an "internship opportunity." The fake phishing attempt asked for information like student ID number, date of birth and an email address.
Vishwanath discovered that regular users accepted the fake account's friend request, but only the habitual Facebook-o-philes took the bait.
The researcher offers his explanation for why the habitual users were more likely to give up their personal information freely: Perhaps being connected to a large number of people makes it difficult to discern a friend from a stranger; or frequently interacting with the platform makes individuals more likely to overlook the nuances in the message that might reveal deception.
What he's saying, I think, is something very basic. The more time you spend on social media, the easier it becomes to trust everyone you meet online. "Regular" Facebook users interact with their friends, but the people who make it a habit are growing their network by any means necessary.
Social media can be a whole lot of fun, but always be sure to never accept friend requests from someone who you don't know. Social media phishing scams aren't usually safe experiments, and can sometimes be very real.
Check out more of my recent social media coverage:
- Social media is better than the government at measuring a crucial statistic
- 5 dangerous apps you don't know your kids are using
- Think twice about doing this one thing on Facebook