Washington: If you suddenly feel the urge to share more on Facebook, it may have something to do with the latest policy changes on the social networking site. According to a new study, Facebook changes led users to reveal more.
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 study found evidence of three contrasting trends in the amount of information Facebook users disclosed over time: decreasing public disclosures; abrupt changes in disclosure due to interface and policy changes; and increasing private disclosures, Providence Journal reported.
The 2005-2011 study, which appears in The Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality is the first longitudinal study to document how privacy and disclosure evolve on social network sites over an extended period of time.
Researchers found that from 2005-2009, Facebook users displayed more privacy-seeking behaviour, progressively decreasing the amount of personal data shared with the public.
This trend abruptly reversed between 2009 and 2010, when changes implemented by Facebook, such as modifications to its user interface and default settings, led to a significant increase in the public sharing of various types of personal information.
Over time, the amount and scope of personal information that Facebook users revealed to their Facebook "friends" actually increased.
As a result, users ended up increasing their personal disclosures to other entities on the network, sometimes unknowingly, including to "silent listeners" such as 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 CMU Associate Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy Alessandro Acquisti.
"While people try to take control of their personal information, the network keeps changing, affecting their decisions and changing their privacy outcomes," said Acquisti.
The study profiles data from a panel of 5,076 Facebook users and 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 on-line privacy, the power of social media providers to affect their disclosure and privacy behaviour, and the potential limits of notice and consent mechanisms in addressing consumers' on-line privacy concerns," researchers said.
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