The most notable statistic was the number of users choosing to hide their friend list. This figure rose over 200% during the 15-month period of the study. Further analysis revealed that women and higher income users were more apt to have stricter privacy settings.
The study was conducted by Keith Ross, the Leonard J. Shustek Professor of Computer Science at the Polytechnic Institute of New Your University. The goal was to examine Internet privacy leaks and trends.
Ross and his colleagues analyzed the public profile pages of 1.4 million users in March 2010 and then again in June of 2011.
Here are a couple of fun Facebook facts from their research:
- In March 2010, 17 percent of users had their friends list hidden from public view. 15 months later this figure rose to 53%.
- Other profile information, such as, age, high school, graduation year, network, relationship, gender, interests, hometown and current city also were hidden more frequently. (12% in 2010 and rose to 33% in 2011)
Ross believes that a combination of factors were responsible for the increase in users preferring tighter privacy settings. Media attention on privacy exploits and vulnerabilities likely led to increased public awareness. This pressure brought about a major redesign on Facebook’s privacy settings interface.
The profiles used in the study were all from New York City. While not a random sample, Ross and his research team believe their findings show a growing trend in privacy demands.
Ross believes his study to be to be the largest analysis of Facebook user’s privacy preferences to date.