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Facebook Users Share More Data Than They Realize

March 8, 2013

By Cynthia Herbert :: 12:56 AM

Users sharing more due to privacy setting confusion.Results of a long-term study from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have revealed that as Facebook has made changes to its privacy setting controls, users were sharing more private information with their friends and “others” than they realized.

The “others” category of information recipients includes Facebook itself, Facebook’s third-party application developers, and Facebook advertisers.

CMU researchers used data from over 5,000 Facebook users who were members of  the university’s network to examine how privacy and sharing evolved from 2005 through 2011.

The study examines Facebook’s departure from a public place to one that is more private, where users can choose their audience, Jules Polonetsky, director and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum told ABC news. “More people are being more active, but they’re doing it in a way that allows them to interact more directly with the audience they intend to.”

In the years 2005 through 2009, users decreased the amount of information they shared publicly on Facebook, until 2009, when the social network changed how the default privacy settings worked – then, they saw an uptick in sharing, most likely due to confusion with privacy settings.

Researchers said the results of the study which used a data set mostly comprised of undergraduate college students, might not extrapolate the same to a larger segment of Facebook users.