Privacy Protection Gains Importance Among Facebook Users

The vast majority of Facebook visitors—like most Internet users—say they like websites that take special care to protect their privacy. Yet as the popularity of Facebook grew during 2009 among both younger and older adults, there was a general waning in visitors’ advocacy of online privacy. In fact, the share of Facebook visitors sensitive to privacy protection experienced a 9% relative decline between January and November of 2009. That decline may have continued, were it not for a series of privacy policy updates issued by the social networking giant.

In November 2009, Facebook changed its default settings to publicly reveal a larger than before amount of its users’ information. Then in December 2009, the privacy settings were entirely removed from certain categories of users’ information. And lastly, in April 2010, users’ General Information became publicly exposed whenever they connected to certain applications or websites, a move that seriously angered many Facebook adherents.

Following these changes, the share of Facebook users who are sensitive to privacy protection rose. Specifically, between November 2009 and April 2010, the percent of users who like sites that protect their privacy increased a relative 7%. Facebook’s decision to return, and even simplify, control over privacy settings to account holders may appease users, but whether a subsequent drop in support of online privacy will ensue down the line is far from certain.