Comedy skits and movie bits often make object lessons of blabbermouths who spill their guts. Yet many Facebook users still need a clue that they're endangering themselves and others, by sharing too much information on the social network, says Consumer Reports.
Cover story of the June issue - on sale next week and online at www.ConsumerReports.org - CR's investigation of Facebook and its users found that 13 million (of 150 million) U.S. Facebook members don't think to use the site's privacy controls. And about 28 percent share all or most of their wall posts with more than friends, opening the door to all kinds of trouble - from gossip mongerers to stalkers to house-robbers who know you're out and about.
What other inadvertantly broadcast information can come back and kick you in the butt? Among CR's findings - 39.3 million users identify a family member in their profile and 20.4 million include their birthdate and year - great info for scam artists as well as birthday greetings.
4.6 million discuss their love life and 2.6 million chat about recreational use of alcohol on their wall postings.
Hitting the "Likes" tab can clue strangers to your religious affiliation (7.7 million Facebook-ers shared that thumbs-up) and sexual orientation (2.3 million spilled that info.)
Besides the lawbreakers, commercial enterprises are also hot for this information, so they can target you with advertising. CR's advocacy arm Consumer Union has been pushing for a national privacy law that forbids tracking and hounding consumers without full disclosure and your approval.
The report also offers a number of tips for smarter Facebook participation. Some are obvious - think before you type, don't post your picture. For better security, go into Facebook's privacy settings to "unpublic" your wall and turn off "Tag Suggest" (a face recognition feature - kinda creepy).
To start with a clean slate, you can always delete an account. But be forewarned, that last option takes Facebook as much as a month to execute. And some information remains in Facebook's computers for as long as three months.