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: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

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

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

Aug 26, 2014

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

Aug 22, 2014

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

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.