Carnegie Mellon University performed a seven-year study on Facebook and its users. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon studied data from 5,076 Facebook users from 2005 to 2011 to analyze the correlation between changes in Facebook’s privacy features and user’s sharing their information. The study showed that every time Facebook improved its privacy features for users, users would actually share more information with their friends as well as 3rd party developers and advertisers.
According to the study, from 2005-2009, Facebook users were very picky about the information they shared on their news feed. At the end of 2009, Facebook had changed its settings, and users, who the study say were presumably confused by the new settings, ending up sharing more information on their news feed and their profiles. When timeline was introduced in 2011, people started sharing even more data due to the number of added information fields available, like milestones and history.
Jules Polonetsky, director/co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, stated, “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.
It shouldn’t be surprising that when Facebook implements more privacy options, users feel more safe to share their personal information. The privacy features allow people to freely share their thoughts and photos without the fear of there being a maniac out there stalking them. With the news feed being redesigned frequently, it also entices users to test out the new features and see how they like it, even if they initially hate it.