Consumer Reports: Facebook users more wary of sharing information

Facebook is about to share a whole lot of information about itself as it pitches potential investors on its initial public stock offering coming in May.

But users of the popular website are becoming more wary about how much information they share with Facebook, says a new study from Consumer Reports that asked Facebook users in the United States what steps they took to protect their privacy on the world’s largest social network.

About a quarter of the users surveyed admitted they made up information about themselves. Consumer Reports said that’s double the number who said they did that two years ago, a finding that it says signals that users have become more guarded.

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is using the June issue of the magazine to push for a national privacy law that would give consumers control over companies tracking them online. Facebook has more than 150 million users in the U.S.

Consumer Reports says it’s urging Facebook to make it clearer to users how to protect their information. But the study also found that the majority of U.S. Facebook users have adjusted their privacy settings, only about 13 million have not, which would seem to indicate that Facebook users are taking control of their privacy on the site.


Facebook insists that it offers users extensive tools to control their privacy.

“We believe more than 900 million consumers have voluntarily decided to share and connect on Facebook because we provide them options and tools that place them in control of their information and experience,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in an emailed statement. “As part of our effort to empower and educate consumers, we always welcome constructive conversations about online privacy and safety.”

Consumer Reports is coming under fire from some critics such as Jeff Jarvis who take issue with the study’s findings.

Privacy is a persistent issue for Facebook, which has built a formidable business by trading on people’s online social lives, selling ads that target its more than 900 million users by the vast information they volunteer on the website. It has come under heavy scrutiny for its handling of consumer data. In November it reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to undergo independent privacy audits every other year for 20 years.


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