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Faking It Online

What's so social about social networkers falsifying their personal information to protect themselves?

5:55 PM -- What if your social networking pal is, well, faking it? Don't say you haven't been warned: turns out that one third of U.K. users on social networking sites have input false information about themselves as a way to protect their identity, says a new survey by U.K.-based emedia.

Many of them -- 62 percent -- say they are worried about their personal data that resides on social networking sites, and 31 percent have resorted to providing fake information.

The survey press release doesn't say exactly what information these social networkers are falsifying, but imagine if your "bf4l" isn't really, or if that potential customer you met online isn't really in your sales territory after all?

Of course, it depends on the information you're faking. Maybe posting your geographic location in Turkey or some deserted island is relatively harmless and may make you feel more secure, but what about lying about your marital status? Or pretending to be someone you're not? Sure, pedophiles and bad guys pose as someone else online all the time, but what good is a social networking site if even the good guys are being dishonest?

Nearly half of the 100 respondents in the survey said they use social networking sites at work, and 24 percent say they visit these sites every day, and up to 45 percent, once a week. Their favorites, according to the survey: Friends Reunited, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Although 87 percent said social networking sites can be used for business reasons, only 11 percent are actually using them this way, according to the survey.

And interestingly, half say they have a problem with the "intrusiveness" of advertisements on these sites: Over 70 percent say they've opted out of newsletters from social networking sites. That's a relief. I mean, can you imagine how those emails would intrude on their time to social network at work?

Good thing they're pretending to be located somewhere else.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading