Despite concerns over users privacy on Facebook, sharing on the largest social networking platform has has substantially grown on the platform. According to a study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, every time Facebook updated its privacy features for users, sharing with friends and third party developers as well as advertisers increased.
The seven year study follows the privacy practices of over 5,076 Facebook users, who were using the social networking site since 2005-2011. Researchers observed users steadily limited what personal information was visible to others in the first four years. Facebook, however, managed to turn users' attention to more public disclosure of their data following changes to the platform in 2009 and 2010.
“First, over time Facebook users in our dataset exhibited increasingly privacy-seeking behavior, progressively decreasing the amount of personal data shared publicly with unconnected profiles in the same network. However, and second, changes implemented by Facebook near the end of the period of time under our observation arrested or in some cases inverted that trend,” researchers noted.
“Third, the amount and scope of personal information that Facebook users revealed privately to other connected profiles actually increased over time|and because of that, so did disclosures to silent listeners" on the network: Facebook itself, third-party apps, and (indirectly) advertisers. These finding highlight the tension between privacy choices as expressions of individual subjective preferences, and the role of the environment in shaping those choices “
Jules Polonetsky, director/co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, says, “I think the study shows Facebook users have reached a reasonable equilibrium now that there is far less data being shared publicly and much more interactions with your friends, which is a good thing.” In a separate study, researchers found that 222,000 posts by Facebook users made over a course of a month were able to reach 61% of the people on their friend’s list.
The research is likely to encourage Facebook to come up with more privacy updates and options that assure users their data is safe to share. Facebook has recently updated its privacy policies and added new buttons to keep their users alerted about what content is visible to others.
Facebook, in the meanwhile is set to announce a major overhaul to its News Feed in an attempt to improve users experience/engagement as well as woo more advertising on the social networking platform.