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Comparison of how knowledgeable students from Computer Science and Arts disciplines are with privacy features of Facebook.com Hamidreza Tavakoli Faculty of Computer Science Dalhousie University Canada tavakoli@cs.dal.ca

Matthew Sweett Faculty of Computer Science Dalhousie University Canada mt675040@dal.ca

Brook Townsend Faculty of Computer Science Dalhousie University Canada brookt@cs.dal.ca

Abstract Despite concerns relating to disclosing personal information on Online Social Networks (OSNs) such as Facebook.com, people share their private information on such websites. The purpose of this research is to study whether having technical knowledge of computers can affect the way Facebook users customize their privacy settings. The results could eventually affect the way that Facebook customizes it's users privacy settings, which can be through a smart automatic privacy setting for users on Facebook. Author Keywords Facebook.com, Privacy, Security, Online Social Networks, Computer Knowledge, Computer Science, Arts.

Introduction OSNs such as Facebook.com have become increasingly popular and with the rapid growth rate of users on such websites studying the factors involved in customizing privacy settings is important. It is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of undergraduate students are members of OSNs such as Facebook.com [1]. It is also estimated that members of OSNs reached to half a billion users [2]. The benefits of OSNs are including but not limited to sharing digital media and communicating with other users. Despite these potential benefits of OSNs, there are privacy concerns regarding disclosure of information on such websites. Therefore in this research, we studied the knowledge of computers as a factor while users customized their privacy settings on Facebook.com. Through this study, the knowledge of Facebook.com privacy settings of students from the faculty of Computer Science was compared with students from Arts disciplines. The conclusion helped us assess whether knowledge of computers could potentially be a factor to set privacy settings of Facebook.com. Moreover, in this study, after analyzing the data from the survey and interviews we came to the conclusion that knowledge of computers is indeed a factor while a user is customizing privacy settings on Facebook.com.

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Background According to Starter and Lipford [1], users who are using Facebook.com are aware of their profile being publicly available and that they disclose appropriate and safe information online. On Facebook.com users make privacy decision either by their initial awareness of to what extent their information would be accessible, or when they face a problem regarding their privacy. Furthermore, some users are confused with complicated privacy settings and are not able to use them to customize their privacy settings. Krishnamurthy and Wills [2] also carried out a study on OSNs privacy concerns and pointed out that users always like to share their personal identifying information on OSNs but they do not have a clear idea of to what extent their information will be disclosed on the Internet. Through their study they identified a set of private information that each user really needs to share on OSNs in order to do specific interactions. According to Young and Quan-Haase[3], who conducted a study about students disclosing too much personal information on OSNs, they found out certain factors and what influences these people, particularly students, to show too much personal information on Facebook.com and other related websites. Along with this, they studied how students are developing strategies to protect themselves from privacy threats on OSNs. Moreover according to Starter [4] who examined privacy and disclosure in a social networking community, at UNC Charlotte, 67% of participants disclosed all the information to anyone; while the remaining participants only disclosed information to people in their friends list. Participants with equal privacy settings disclosed too much information on their profile. Several participants indicated that they were not aware of to what extent the information that they disclosed would be available on their Facebook.com profile. Gross and Acquisti[5] did a study on students from Carnegie Mellon University who joined a popular social networking group catered to college students. The study found out how much personal information they displayed on OSNs and what their Facebook.com usage was, they also established that a very small percentage of college students actually changed their personal profile privacy settings and they discovered that a lot of their participants were vulnerable to social networking attacks because of their current privacy settings. Loukides and Gkoulalas-Divanis [6] also did a study which addressed several privacy concerns relating to online OSNs through various issues such as Identity Disclosure, Link Disclosure and Content Disclosure. They came to this conclusion that the current research and algorithms on privacy issues of OSNs were not generally applicable in the context of social network data due to its significantly complex structure.

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The study Details This study was conducted at Dalhousie University in the Computer Science building. We used http://docs.google.com to administer our questionnaire. In addition, for analyzing the data and putting charts and tables together we used the Microsoft Excel program. Dalhousie students were recruited to take part in our study by emailing out a recruitment notice to csugrads@cs.dal.ca and csstudents@cs.dal.ca. In the notice students were directed to the URL of the study. On the first page of the study, there was a consent form that explained the details of the study, the requirements to participate, and any risks and benefits. After reading the consent form and pressing the I agree button the participant was directed to the survey and upon completion they were asked to participate in an interview. The application used for the online survey only collected responses and no identifying information. The consent form made sure that the participants were eligible to take part in the survey; otherwise they would be directed to a thank-you page ending the study. The survey took approximately 5-10 minutes to complete. Furthermore, the interviews were held in room 426 of the Dalhousie Computer Science Building; the approximate time to complete each interview was 15 minutes. During the interview, Brook Townsend was the facilitator and Hamidreza Tavakoli and Mattew Sweett took notes about the participants response. We pilot tested the questionnaire and interview questions with fellow students in CS1107. We also pilot tested for time and to identify issues with the questions. Data was not collected during the pilot testing. All the information from the interviews was recorded via written notes and was transferred to electronic versions; The data collected in this research is only accessible by principle investigators. In addition the gathered data has been burned to a CD and is deleted from the online service. The CD has been passed to the course instructor who will keep the data in a secure location for a year past the study. This study took two weeks to gather all the information and process the data. The Problem In this study, we compared the knowledge of students from computer science discipline with students from arts discipline to examine whether knowledge of computers could be a factor while a users are customizing their privacy settings on Facebook.com. The reason why this particular study is important is because of the extensive growth rate of Facebook.com user base and privacy issues which occurs respectively due to misconfiguration of Facebook privacy settings . Methodology This study is conducted through an online survey and interviews. For the online survey 18 participants were recruited from those 9 of these participants were from Computer Science discipline and 9 of the other participants were from the Arts discipline. The interview was conducted with two participants from Computer Science. The gathered data from the online survey were categorized into four general groups of privacy concerns, knowledge of privacy settings, privacy customization and use of Facebook.com. The data gathered from the survey were analyzed and 5 figures and tables were generated from these 4 groups of categories. These figures and tables helped us to compare the knowledge of students from computer science

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discipline with students from arts discipline and eventually helped us to satisfy the hypothesis for this study. Results and Discussion The results of the study prove our hypothesis as shown in Figure 1. However the results show several trends that are potentially related to the users ability to change their settings. On average Computer Science students spend more time on a computer each day compared to Arts students (Figure 2), we believe that this may have an impact on the user's general knowledge of computerbased applications.

Figure 1. Comparison of whether the participant was able to change their account's privacy settings on Facebook.com between Computer Science and Arts students.

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Figure 2: Computer Science Students vs. Art Students, Comparison of how much time each group spent on a computer every day.

Computer Science students feel that their information is generally less secure on Facebook.com compared to Arts students. The trend of differing concerns about privacy between Computer Science and Arts is also present in Figure 3 and 4. More than 3/4 of the Arts students did not read any of Facebook.com's privacy policy while over half of the Computer Science students have read the key points or the entire document. These results show that Computer Science students are more concerned with the privacy of their disclosed information on Facebook.com. The positive hypothesis can be indirectly related to this.

Figure 4. Computer Science students knowledge of Facebook.com privacy policy

Figure 3. Arts students knowledge of Facebook.com's privacy policy

Throughout the study, Arts students show less of a regard for their privacy which is clearly shown in Table 1. The majority of the Arts students disclosed several pieces of personal information which could be used in identity theft, where as the majority of the Computer Science students decided not to disclose this information.

5


yes CS

no

dont know

Arts

CS

Arts

CS

Arts

Do you allow random people to view your full profile?

2

3

7

2

1

4

Do you display your telephone number?

2

5

7

3

0

1

Do you display your email address?

5

7

4

2

0

0

Do you display your home address?

1

5

8

4

0

0

Table 1. Knowledge of privacy features of Facebook.com between Computer Science and Arts students.

Two individuals also mentioned their inability to delete a profile e.g.: "Facebook.com can be safe or unsafe, but regardless of the settings I think they should allow you to delete profiles!" and "I would really appreciate it if Facebook would let me close my account.". This asks the question: is Facebook.com storing these profiles for future usage? This question addresses a large privacy concern, due to the fact that there is large amounts of money to be had for the data on Facebook.com profiles. Another interesting group of comments from our online survey stated that Facebook.com can be secure or insecure,depending on the privacy setting chosen. A fourth year Computer Science student stated that "Facebook's privacy settings are actually pretty fine grain compared to others, you can even choose on a post by post basis what groups can see that post. I am not particularly concerned with privacy, but I guess I would be if I had kids." where as a second year Arts student stated that "Facebook can be safe or unsafe, but regardless of the settings I think they should allow you to delete profiles". Conclusions and future work Through this research study, we have found that Computer Science students at Dalhousie University feel they are more proficient with computers in general when compared to Arts students at Dalhousie University. This can be directly linked to the user's ability to modify privacy settings on Facebook.com. Computer science students in general have a greater ability to change their privacy settings on Facebook.com. Along with fulfilling our hypothesis we also discovered several interesting trends. For example: Computer Science students feel that their information is less secure on OSNs, and they tend to disclose less personal information because of this. It is also observed that Computer Science students are generally more concerned about their privacy on Facebook.com compared to students from Arts discipline. Therefore this study indicates that knowledge of computers is indeed an important factor which should be take into account. This however should not be a factor for something so important as privacy settings. In addition, for future study we could also propose techniques for customizing privacy settings which do not require the user to have a large amount of previous computer knowledge. For example a

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systematic online survey at the time the user signs up and set privacy settings based on that, could potentially avoid the computer knowledge factor while user is customizing Facebook.com's privacy settings.

References [1] Strater, K., & Lipford, H. R. (2008). Strategies and struggles with privacy in an online social networking community. Paper presented at the BCS-HCI '08: Proceedings of the 22nd British HCI Group Annual Conference on HCI 2008, Liverpool, United Kingdom. 111-119. [2] Krishnamurthy, B., & Wills, C. E. (2008). Characterizing privacy in online social networks. Paper presented at the WOSP '08: Proceedings of the First Workshop on Online Social Networks, Seattle, WA, USA. 37-42. Retrieved from http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1397735.1397744 [3] Young, A. L., & Quan-Haase, A. (2009). Information revelation and internet privacy concerns on social network sites: A case study of facebook. Paper presented at the In Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Communities and Technologies, University Park, PA, USA. 265-274. Retrieved from http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1556460.1556499 [4] Strater, K., & Richter, H. (2007). Examining privacy and disclosure in a social networking community. Paper presented at the SOUPS '07: Proceedings of the 3rd Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 157-158. Retrieved from http://doi.acm.org/ 10.1145/1280680.1280706 [5] Gross, R., Acquisti, A., & Heinz, I.,H.John. (2005). Information revelation and privacy in online social networks. Paper presented at the WPES '05: Proceedings of the 2005 ACM Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society, Alexandria, VA, USA. 71-80. Retrieved from http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1102199.1102214 [6] Loukides, G., & Gkoulalas-Divanis, A. (2009). Privacy challenges and solutions in the social web. Crossroads, 16(2), 14-18. Retrieved from http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1665997.1666002

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Facebook Security Research  

Comparison of how knowledgeable students from Computer Science and Arts disciplines are with privacy features of Facebook.com

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