Facebook changes led users to reveal more, study finds (Update)

Mar 05, 2013
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, holds a press conference on May 26, 2010 in Palo Alto, California to outline Facebook's new privacy control methods. Facebook users began sharing more private data after the social network giant revamped its policies and interface, according to a study released Tuesday.

Facebook users began sharing more private data after the social network giant revamped its policies and interface, according to a study released Tuesday.

The seven-year study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers said users had been moving toward greater privacy settings from 2005 to 2009, but that the trend reversed with the Facebook changes in 2009 and 2010.

The researchers said modifications to the Facebook interface and default settings led to a significant increase in the public disclosure of personal information.

As a result, users ended up increasing their personal disclosures on the network, sometimes unknowingly, including to Facebook itself, third-party apps and advertisers.

"These findings highlight the tension between privacy choices as expressions of individual subjective preferences, and the role of the network environment in shaping those choices," said Alessandro Acquisti, one of the researchers.

"While people try to take control of their personal information, the network keeps changing, affecting their decisions and changing their privacy outcomes."

The study, appearing in The Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality, profiles data from a panel of 5,076 Facebook users. It is the first study to use data from Facebook's early days in 2005.

"These findings illustrate the challenges social network users face when trying to manage online privacy, the power of social media providers to affect their disclosure and privacy behavior, and the potential limits of notice and consent mechanisms in addressing consumers' on-line privacy concerns," co-author Fred Stutzman said.

Researcher Ralph Gross said Facebook's public efforts to increase user options "may increase members' feeling of control," but that apparent confusion among some led to "increases in disclosures of sensitive information to strangers."

But Facebook cautioned against reading too much from a single study.

"Independent research has verified that the vast majority of the people on Facebook are engaging with and using our straightforward and powerful privacy tools—allowing them to control what they're sharing, and with whom they're sharing," a company spokesman said in a statement sent to AFP.

Facebook, which has grown to more than a billion members worldwide, has been dogged by privacy issues for years, as well as by lawsuits claiming it fails to ensure personal data is safeguarded from marketers and third-party apps.

The group agreed with a US government agency to submit to external audits of how well it guards users' data.

Complaints said Facebook had promised to honor users' privacy preferences and called on the company to stop making claims about the security of personal information—such as age, location and friends—that are untrue.

Explore further: Escaping email: Inspired vision or hallucination?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New lawsuit takes aim at Facebook privacy

May 19, 2012

A new lawsuit consolidating several complaints about Facebook's privacy policies was filed Friday in California, seeking damages for US users of the social network for improper tracking.

Privacy groups ask FTC to investigate Facebook

Sep 29, 2011

(AP) -- Nine privacy groups have sent a joint letter to the Federal Trade Commission saying it should investigate the ways Facebook collects data about users' online activity after recent changes to its site.

Myspace settles privacy probe with FTC

May 08, 2012

(AP) -- Myspace, the once mighty social network, settled a privacy investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to submit to privacy audits over the next 20 years.

Facebook settles with FTC over deception charges

Nov 29, 2011

Facebook is settling with the Federal Trade Commission over charges it deceived consumers with its privacy settings to get people to share more personal information than they originally agreed to.

Recommended for you

T-Mobile deal helps Rhapsody hit 2M paying subs

Jul 29, 2014

(AP)—Rhapsody International Inc. said Tuesday its partnership with T-Mobile US Inc. has helped boost its number of paying subscribers to more than 2 million, up from 1.7 million in April.

Airbnb woos business travelers

Jul 29, 2014

Airbnb on Monday set out to woo business travelers to its service that lets people turn unused rooms in homes into de facto hotel space.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Static
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 05, 2013
With how often users continue to be completely unaware of the privacy changes, I'm not sure this study actually means anything.
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2013
Uniting efforts must be appreciated while the challenges for the community are large even by face value.
unknown_anonymous
not rated yet Mar 06, 2013
it is easier to just make an account with a fake information. hard to reveal personal data when it is about nobody.