My fifth article review for TECH621 is titled Information Revelation and Privacy in Online Social Networks (The Facebook case). The purpose for this article is to examine patterns of information revelation in online social networks and their privacy implications. This paper also highlights potential attacks on various aspects of user privacy, and only a minimal percentage of users make changes the highly permeable privacy preferences enabling changes to new privacy settings by application default to go unnoticed.



This research article examines patterns of information revelation in online social networks and their privacy implications. This paper also evaluates the amount of information they disclose and study their usage of the site’s privacy settings. We highlight potential attacks on various aspects of their privacy, and we show that only a minimal percentage of users change the highly permeable privacy preferences. This research article examines and analyzes the online behavior of more than 4,000 Carnegie Mellon University students who have joined a popular social networking site catered to colleges.



The methods used in this research include sampling a demographic of more than 4000 Carnegie Mellon students involved in social networking on Facebook. The majority of users of the Facebook at CMU are undergraduate students (3345 or 73.7% of all profiles). This corresponds to 62.1% of the total undergraduate population at CMU. Graduate students, staff and faculty are represented to a much lesser extent (6.3%, 1.3%, and 1.5% of the CMU population, respectively). The majority of users are male (60.4% vs. 39.2%). The vast majority of users (95.6%) fall in the 18-24 age brackets. Overall the average age is 21.04 years.



Results of the demographic study show that CMU users of the Facebook provide an astonishing amount of information: 90.8% of profiles contain an image, 87.8% of users reveal their birth date, 39.9% list a phone number (including 28.8% of profiles that contain a cell phone number), and 50.8% list their current residence. The majority of users also disclose their dating preferences (male or female), current relationship status (single, married, or in a relationship), political views (from “very liberal” to “very conservative”), and various interests (including music, books, and movies). A large percentage of users (62.9%) that list a relationship status other than single even identify their partner by name and/or link to their Facebook profile. These results clearly show that users of various social networking (in this case Facebook) platforms are invariantly disclosing personal information regardless of their individual privacy settings and disposition of their personal information’s safety.



In conclusion, it can be stated that from this study of more than 4,000 CMU users of the Facebook we have quantified individuals’ willingness to provide large amounts of personal information in an online social network, and it was shown how unconcerned users appear to privacy risks: while personal data is generously provided, limiting privacy preferences are hardly used; only a small number of members change the default privacy preferences, which are set to maximize the visibility of users profiles. Although the basis of this study comes from analysis of Facebook profiles, there are a number of social networking sites where these same characteristics are prevalent. Users are either oblivious to user settings or just do not care to make the changes themselves. Either way, users are not utilizing social media platforms in a responsible manner that  will better protect themselves from internet security and privacy breaches.