03/05/2014 09:18 am ET Updated May 05, 2014

Facebook and Others Predict Life Events Based on What You Post

More than 1 billion users give Facebook their personal info every day, including basics such as name, city, school, employment, relationship status, interests, events attended, etc.

But in spite of the option to set your privacy settings to "high," Facebook continues to gather more and more data about you. In reality, that basic stuff is a fraction of the information users willingly and unknowingly hand over.

Here is another list of information that Facebook collects from your everyday actions:
  • Who you talk to
  • Where you eat
  • Pics you like
  • Comments you make
  • Pages you like
  • Businesses you like

What Facebook users don't know is that although they may withhold information from their personal profile, Facebook analyzes data from daily activities to learn more about a user... to the point of being able to predict major life events.

For example, Carlos Diuk, a Facebook data scientist, shared that he can predict if and when two people will be in a relationship.

Diuk said, "We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world." (Source.)

So, Facebook is able to predict relationship status. I previously wrote about credit card companies trying to use social network information to predict credit scores.

Over one-third of university admissions boards are using social network information to predict the quality of students. Employers check out an applicant's online life to determine the type of employee they might hire.

The Future

Perhaps life insurance providers will create a risk profile based on your posts and comments? That profile could be affected by comments you made about bungee jumping, high speed driving, drunken brawls, skipping work because of a hangover, taking prescriptions pills that aren't yours, etc.

Google and Microsoft have created amazing search tools, but there are other high tech start-ups taking "search" to a new level. Indeed, the CIA and Google have invested in a Swedish company, Recorded Future, founded in 2009. This group has tools to help "businesses anticipate risks and capitalize on opportunities using open source information." In a nutshell, they use public information to predict "things."

As we share more information and spend more time on social networks, there won't be much that we can keep private.

What to do?

Be aware and more careful of what you do and say online. If you don't want it printed in a headline for all to see, don't write it.

Take time occasionally to remove previous posts, comments, photos, and likes. Better still, delete accounts for social networks you no longer use.

Monitor your child's activities on social networks with a social network monitoring tool. They will thank you later.

Though users may withhold information or make their profiles private on social networks, it doesn't mean much anymore with futuristic data analysis techniques.

After all, actions such as "posts" and "friends" and "likes" now speak louder than words.

Note: This article and the opinions expressed here are from Russ Warner, Internet safety expert and CEO of ContentWatch, makers of parental control software Net Nanny.

Follow Russ Warner on Google+.