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Study: Facebook users willingly give out data

Facebook users still haven't mastered the whole "privacy thing" when it comes to sharing personal information with others, a study from security firm Sophos finds.

Facebook users are too willing to give out their personal information, security firm Sophos has found.

According to Sophos' Australian team, which conducted a study to see how likely Facebook users were to offer up personal information, 41 to 46 percent of the 100 people Sophos contacted "blindly accepted" friend requests from two fake Facebook users created by the security firm.

After becoming friends with Sophos, the security firm was able to access up to 89 percent of the users' full dates of birth, all of their e-mail addresses, where they went to school, and more. Half of all the users Sophos befriended displayed the town or suburb where they live. They even offered up information on family and friends.

Younger users were "more liberal" with their workplace or school information than older users. "Both groups were very liberal with their e-mail addresses and with their birthdays," the security firm wrote in a blog post Sunday announcing the results. "This is worrying because these details make an excellent starting point for scammers and social engineers."

The security firm added that "10 years ago, getting access to this sort of detail would probably have taken a con-artist or an identify thief several weeks, and have required the on-the-spot services of a private investigator. Sadly, these days, many social networkers are handing over their life story on a plate."

Sophos' concerns over the way Facebook users are keeping information private comes on the heels of a statement released last week by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg discussing why Facebook users need to use the privacy tools his company has created. On Sunday, Facebook also announced the formation of a safety advisory board, comprised of five Internet safety groups.