A new study released this week examines the relationship between Facebook’s privacy controls and how users shared content after the controls were released.
The researchers conducting the study, published in an information systems journal, looked at so-called “disclosure patterns” on two of Facebook’s most popular sharing platforms: wall posts and private messages. They studied how much users shared on both following the December 2009 release of Facebook’s granular privacy controls that allowed users to set specific audiences for every piece of content posted.
A bit counter intuitively, the study found that more privacy-conscious users shared more on their public walls following the release of the controls, perhaps because they felt safer to do so. On the other hand, users who were less sensitive to privacy issues started publicly sharing less and used Facebook’s private messaging more. The study speculated that these users may have been spooked by the announcement of the privacy controls, and realized they needed to be more careful with what they shared.
However, the researchers behind the study noted that with its privacy changes, Facebook managed to both please advertisers by prodding users to share more while giving users the privacy controls they want. So even when users feel like they’ve won, Facebook still gets more of our data.