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(Credit: Wachiwit/iStock)

If you never jumped on the Facebook bandwagon or had the willpower to pull the plug on your account, you haven't restored as much of your privacy as you might think.

A recent study demonstrates that people can be profiled online just from hints left about them on the social network, whether they have an account on Facebook or not.

"Effectively, it shows that there is no place to hide on social network platforms," co-author Dr. Lewis Mitchell, Senior Lecturer in applied mathematics in the University of Adelaide's School of Mathematical Sciences said in a press release on the study.

According to a new study from the University of Adelaide and the University of Vermont published in Nature, even without a Facebook account, a person can be visible online by appearing on a friend or family member's account.

SEE: Exclusive: New app to protect your privacy will run on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac

"Our results have distinct privacy implications: information is so strongly embedded in a social network that, in principle, one can profile an individual from their available social ties even when the individual forgoes the platform completely," the study said.

In the experiment, researchers predicted the future activities of a group with 95 percent accuracy by studying the Facebook accounts of eight or nine close contacts alone.

In theory, according to the study, a company or other entity could find out a person's political party, favorite products or religious beliefs based on their friends' profiles and contact lists and create a "shadow profile" of the individual without a social media account.

Twitter isn't free from leaving a trail, either. The researchers analyzed more than 30 million messages to test the predictability of individuals' behavior, based on the text they publish online.

"It's like listening in on one end of a phone call. Even though you can't hear the person on the other end of the line, you can still find out a lot of information about them from the one-sided conversation you can hear," Lewis said.

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Takeaways

  1. Even without a Facebook account, a person can be visible online by appearing on a friend or family member's account, a new study reported.
  2. Researchers predicted the future activities of people without social media accounts with 95 percent accuracy by studying the Facebook accounts of eight or nine close contacts.
  3. After observing those other accounts, companies could theoretically build a "shadow profile" of you that details your likes, dislikes, political party, religious beliefs and more.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.