Study: Dramatic Rise In College Students Tweaking Facebook Privacy Settings

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Frequent assertions that young people no longer care about privacy to the contrary, college students not only tweak their privacy settings on Facebook, but are more likely to do so now than one year ago, according to a new study co-authored by social media expert Danah Boyd.

For the study, Boyd, a researcher at Microsoft, and Eszter Hargittai, an associate professor at Northwestern University, questioned the same group of college students with Facebook accounts in 2009 and 2010. The vast majority of those students changed their privacy settings at least once in that time, according to the report. What's more, the proportion of students who tweaked their privacy settings increased dramatically between 2009 and this year.

"Overall, our data show that far from being nonchalant and unconcerned about privacy matters, the majority of young adult users of Facebook are engaged with managing their privacy settings on the site at least to some extent," the report states.

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In 2009, 90% of the students on Facebook had changed their settings at least once, while more than one in four (26%) had changed their privacy settings at least four times. By this year, however, virtually all of the respondents (98%) had changed their privacy settings at least once, while more than half had done so at least four times.

The researchers did not put forward a definitive reason for the increase, but posited various theories. "One explanation could be the increase in public attention to privacy matters; another could be the increased changes in Facebook's default settings; yet another could be the prompts the site displayed to users," the report states.

Late last year, when Facebook made a round of changes to its privacy policy, it asked all users to go through a privacy wizard and examine their settings.

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