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Facebook Privacy "Fundamentally Flawed" Per Columbia University Study

Facebook's privacy is "fundamentally flawed" per results from a Columbia University study. Steven M. Bellovin, an ingenious computer scientist who assisted in the development of USENET Internet discussion board systems, conducted the first Facebook study highlighting sprouting privacy issues on Facebook. Bellovin found the exploding popularity of Facebook has opened the gateway to limitless possibilities of sharing information, in good and bad ways.

In the study, Bellovin recruited and surveyed 65 students from Columbia and found that most Facebook users either shared too little or too much information regardless of their intentions. The survey found Facebook's privacy settings fell short and a general malaise regarding user's abilities to secure their privacy. Bellovin also found that most Facebook users were either sharing information they'd rather hide, or hiding information they'd rather share.

Bellovin presented the results from his study at the University of Maryland's School of Law in Baltimore on April 11, 2011. Bellovin questioned those in attendance of his presentation: "If you think it should be kept private, have you succeeded in doing so?" Most respondents indicated that though most people prefer strong privacy on Facebook, many did not or could not assure their privacy settings matched their preferences.

Bellovin concluded that Facebook's privacy settings are "fundamentally flawed" and "the overwhelming majority of people have given up. That, to us, is a fairly damning statement on the user interface." Bellovin believes that "modifications to existing settings and future settings on behalf of the user should err on the side of restricting information visibility."

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