A seven-year study of the privacy settings of about 5,000 Facebook users reveals that while the amount of personal data made available to others increased as the number of network data fields increased, the number of those others who were seeing that extra data decreased. The Carnegie Mellon University researchers say that the subjects were mostly undergraduates who signed up for Facebook in 2005 back when it was only open to college students. Over time, as Facebook offered more ways to share more information, it also refined and expanded its privacy settings, which more users took advantage of.
What’s the Big Idea?
The independent study is one of the first to examine the evolution of data disclosure and online privacy over such a long period. The findings are consistent with other recent studies done over shorter periods that show Facebook users fine-tuning their privacy settings to control who sees what. Ultimately, though, the researchers concluded that with the increase in the amount of data disclosed, “so [too] have disclosures to Facebook itself, third-party apps, and (indirectly) advertisers.”