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Study: People manage their privacy on Facebook naturally

People find easily ways to manage their privacy on social media, says a study made by researchers at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT.

On Facebook and other similar sites user’s friends from different life spheres can read the same messages. For instance, one’s boss approved by the user as his friend can see the messages the user is changing with his closest friends.

Reseachers Airi Lampinen, Sakari Tamminen and Antti Oulasvirta found in their scientific research six ways Facebook users are applying to solve this kind of situations.

Facebook users avoid updating their status with information they don’t want everybody to see. Privacy is managed by choosing to exchange private messages instead of writing on public walls.

When the users are in touch with each other via closed groups, messages remain out of the sight of outsiders. The users interviewed in the study felt also that they could express themselves more freely if they approved only a limited number of people as their friends or if they defined their groups of friends more precisely.

The results of the study emphasize the meaning of trustworthiness. Several interviewees had simply decided to trust on other people not using the shared information in harmful ways.

Because a user cannot directly control what others are publishing about him on the site, it is important to pay attention to other users’ privacy needs, too. Users try to avoid publishing information that others might find negative or troublesome.

- People protect their own privacy and other people’s privacy instinctively, often almost without noticing. To support these activities, social networking sites need to provide users with easy-to-use privacy management that is interlinked with the overall use of the sites, says researcher Airi Lampinen.

Network society is one of the research areas of Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT. HIIT is a joint research institute of Helsinki University of Technology TKK and the University of Helsinki for basic and strategic research on information technology.

More information:
Researcher Airi Lampinen
firstname.lastname@hiit.fi
tel. +358 50 301 6971