Student Life

Hidden Treasures!

I have stumbled upon a hidden gem while, doing research for a university assignment. Imagine yourself sat down, getting ready to perform research into a topic you have no idea about. Where is the first place you go? Me, Wikipedia but only for the references. If you look in the references you’ll discover millions of academic articles that people may have used and/or find useful with the topic. I’m not saying that you should use the actual Wikipedia page, except maybe to get a slight overview but always look in the references. This is for two reasons; firstly, if you find something that states what is being said then use that as it’ll be a more legitimate source and secondly, you never know what you’ll find.

So, onto this hidden gem. It was near the top of the references but, as I’m looking into privacy on social networking sites and in the title it had Facebook, I thought it would be useful. It also caught my eye because of the end of the hyperlink .edu which means normally this is associated with education so, if an institution can have it on their site then it should be something you look at. In order, to make this post ‘easy reading’ I’m going to break the article down into sections and then I’ll provide the link-referenced of course if you find yourself wanting to have a look.

A tidbit that I just learned is that this article was this article is one of the first discussions upon Facebook and Privacy, as it was created in 2005 (this tidbit is thanks to my lecturer).  However, do not dismiss the article due to age. The older ones provide a framework for newer works but also, they breakdown the subjects a lot better as it was (when it was produced) a new subject academics were commentating upon.


Back in 2005, we’d seen a boom in social networking, with thousands flooding to sign up. No longer were the days of MYSPACE and BEBO etc considered to be aimed at a niche market. This article comments upon “Online Privacy and Social Networking” using, Facebook within a study they conducted. But, firstly they breakdown social networking. Every social networking site has one basic, core feature in common- a user profile. It’s on every website, most dating apps and social networking sites in particular.

A Breakdown of Online Privacy and Social Networking 

As there are so many of these social networking sites, they can have different functions so, dependent upon that, we reveal a wide range of details about our personal life. Some networking sites allow you to use pseudonyms thus, maintaining some privacy but is this really true? We are creatures of habit and that means we will use the same pictures allowing people to create connections and find personal information out before you even talk. We all have a small circle of friends that we share our inner most personal details with, but this article asks how many strangers (the friends of friends, random people) we have accepted upon our social networking sites also know this personal information too. Social networks allow us to ‘air’ our personal problems, celebrations etc but who sees it? But, we are happy to display ourselves so happily to the world. Privacy is dependent upon the person, possible receivers and the millions of uses of the site. Most sites have a privacy policy, as you should all be aware which some experts believe to be enough to combat privacy issues as well as how we as users, use the sites themselves.

The Study

* CMU stands for Carnegie Mellon University.

*SO’s stands for Significant Others.

They took 4000 users of a site (Facebook) aimed at college students. If I haven’t mentioned it enough already its Facebook. The study shows how relaxed we are within the site, referring to online privacy. The demographic of most social network sites is college students thus, that is why they created a study using 4000 people from a college as their sample. Furthermore, when sign up to social networking sites there is a privacy policy, for which we must agree too which clearly states what they will do with your information, and how the you personally use the site in order to ‘cater’ to you better. The participants are all from “Carnegie Mellon University” (CMU).


They went online and searched for male and female students separately that attended CMU using the sites advanced search feature. On whole they downloaded 4500 profiles and the students ranged from under graduate students, graduate students, staff and faculty members. Here are some facts and figures for you;

  • 90.8% of profiles contained an image.
  • 87.8% of users had revealed their birth dates
  • 39.9% had revealed their phone number
  • 50.8% had revealed their current residence.
  • Also, the majority of users had revealed sexual orientation, relationship status, political views and their various interests.
  • And 62.9% had revealed who they were in a relationship with and a link to their SO’s profile.

They found that the usage of Facebook was relatively similar between males and females except with relationship status. Males shared their phone numbers more than women, in an attempt to attract someone.

Next they selected 100 out of the 4500 participants profiles at random to analyse the accuracy of information provided analysing profile names, identifiability of images on profile and friends networks discovering;

  • 89% of people used their real names, 8% used fake names and only 3% partially revealed their first names.
  • 61% of images identified the users clearly, 80% of images revealed some useful information to make an identification and 12% of images were clearly not related to the user.
  • 78.2% of people on the users friends list were attending CMU, 54.9% of people were friends at other schools. Also, 76.6% of users have 25 or more CMU friends whereas 68.6% of profiles show 25 or more non- CMU friends.

Findings surrounding privacy suggests only a minimal amount of people made use of the privacy setting around search-ability of the profile. Even more so, only 0.06% had taken advantage of the profile visibility privacy setting. They state that by simply searching on Facebook, it is possible to find a digital dossier of the participants within the study. Clearly, those within the study are simply not bothered about the information they put out there on the internet. Thus, with just the figures above it is clear to see how open many people are to a possible attack online or physically.


Why do we make ourselves such an open book? Are we so irresponsible with our privacy through creating social networking profiles? How can we control what information can be seen via the rest of the world? Are you now looking at your own profiles privacy settings? In today’s society, we are now using networking sites constantly and many employers search for you on google to make sure your ideals and views align with the image of their companies.We are so open in the information we give, it can be dangerous to an extent and open you up to dangers. But, privacy settings exist so you can limit those who see your profiles. We can choose what information is out in the universe of social networking. Maybe to attain anonymity people should use separate images so, to make yourself less identifiable. And who knows as you get older, and wiser maybe you’ll restrict your profiles and make them private.

This article raises a lot of questions surrounding social networks, online privacy and how we as users, use them. It’s useful in providing a beginning to the debate of online privacy as well as, helping you understand the views already out there.


GROSS, R. and ACQUISTI, A. (2005) Information Revelation and Privacy in Online Social Networks (The Facebook case). Available at: (Accessed: 22 October 2016).