Even though the online social platforms are offering several privacy controls to users, it depends on the user how to use them making privacy a debatable issue, a new study has found. According to a new study from the Naveen Jindal School of Management at University of Texas – Dallas, people have different views on the value of privacy controls in managing disclosures and therefore privacy dangers.
“Some people argue that giving users more granular controls mitigates privacy issues because users can effectively limit the recipients of shared content, thereby increasing the secrecy of disclosures,” Huseyin Cavusoglu, Associate Professor of information systems, said. “On the contrary, other people claim that users perceive privacy risks less severely when they have more controls to exercise, and as a result, share more content publicly, thereby increasing the openness of disclosures,” Cavusoglu added.
A team of researchers used data obtained from Facebook to test the relationship between privacy controls and disclosure patterns of Facebook users based on two popular content-sharing activities: Wall posts and private messages. In December 2009, Facebook gave users additional options to manage privacy by introducing granular controls to set access permissions for wall posts on a per-post basis.
The results of the study, which showed the impact of granular privacy controls on the sharing behaviour of the users, said that Facebook users, on average, increased their use of wall posts and decreased their use of private messages in periods after the change in privacy controls. However, different groups of users respond to the new policy in opposite ways, Cavusoglu said.
“What we found is that users who are more privacy conscious started to share more content via wall posts and less content via private messages after the change, possibly because they are the people who are likely to use the enhanced privacy controls and therefore benefit from them. As a result, the openness of their disclosure increased,” he noted. “However, those who are less privacy sensitive prior to the change actually reduced the use of wall posts and increased the use of private messages in periods following the change,” he added.
The study was published in the INFORMS journal Information Systems Research.