Privacy on Facebook

image from final report

Screen shot of privacy settings page for Facebook news feeds

Skills Used

  • Comparative Evaluation
  • Literature Review
  • User Interviews
  • Surveys


The object of this project was to evaluate a Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) system.

What we did

Recently, Facebook (a social networking site used primarily by college students) introduced a surprising new feature called "news feeds." When users made changes to their account, joined groups, left messages for each other, or became friends with someone, the system began broadcasting that information to their friends. There was a strong and unexpected backlash by users who felt their privacy had been violated. My group found this fascinating and decided to focus our evaluation on how Facebook users feel about their own privacy and how their behavior reflects those feelings.

We began with a comparative evaluation of Facebook and other social networking sites such as MySpace and LinkedIn, noting especially the ways in which privacy settings were different between the sites. We then developed relevant and interesting interview questions related to privacy issues, and interviewed 11 undergraduate and graduate users of Facebook. Finally, we conducted a semi-random survey of 60 Facebook profiles, documenting which information items people shared.

We organized our findings to come up with several key conclusions and recommendations for designers of social networking sites. One recommendation, for example, is that administrators of social software should communicate any changes that might affect privacy to users in advance.

Group Members

  • M. Scholl
  • R. Thompson