While many of us have become wary of sharing excessive personal information on social network Facebook, an exhaustive seven-year study by researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University suggests that users are unwittingly sharing more personal information online than ever. Each time Facebook made changes to its user interface or settings, people shared more private information. This information was available to friends and the “silent listeners”. Silent listeners, according to the report, are Facebook, third-party app developers and advertisers. The Carnegie Mellon report gathered data from about 5000 Facebook users in the university network to understand the development of privacy and disclosure from 2005 till 2011. The number of fields one could fill in on Facebook went up three times during this time.
While the information users shared went down from 2005 to 2009, there was an upsurge of information in 2009 when Facebook changed how people could navigate the settings page. It became easier for users to change their settings and to share more information. With the timeline introduced in 2011, people could share a lot more information. Now, users could include personal information such as engagement, expecting a baby, getting a new job and buying new property. Users today are even able to share the news items they read and they can tag friends in their comments and pictures.
Facebook has also gone on record saying they are aware of the study. They have referred to an independent research that suggests most people on Facebook use their privacy tools to keep a check on what they are sharing and with whom they are sharing.