Public Status Updates Plunged 93% Since Facebook Moved Privacy Controls Inline

By Guest Comment

Facebook’s changes to privacy settings have resulted in a 93 percent drop in the number of status updates shared publicly — in the English language, that is.

The social network announced its move of the privacy settings to inline locations on August 23, but these changes took a while for people to get their heads around. Some of the controls didn’t show up for all users until the second week of September, which is represented in the chart by the green bar, the rate of status update sharing immediately declined as Facebook addicts opted-in to the update.

The major changes announced during the week of the F8 conference September 22 (represented the dashed red line) halted the slide, and sharing briefly increased. But changes gradually rolled out over the span of a month, and the continued slide in volume indicates that users confronted with the new options tended to adopt more stringent privacy settings.

It would seem that Facebook’s changes are curbing sharing. Our hypothesis is that it’s much more likely that this behavior is not going away so much as it is transforming, from status updates to “frictionless sharing.”

Applications and mobile access increasingly drive social sharing. As Facebook users read Washington Post news articles and listen to Spotify tracks on their iPhones, ticker entries broadcast their behavior to their friend networks.

This frees people up to share status updates only as they deem them fit for public consumption. Even as the new sharing methods enabled by open graph applications provide richer anthropological data, they are much more difficult, if not impossible, to collect for research.

Sharing services like bitly, Topsy, and ShareThis can facilitate understanding content consumption and distribution, but there’s no obvious substitute for harvesting unprompted consumer opinions

Readers, are you sharing more things privately than publicly on Facebook?

Guest writer Matt Pierson is the Senior Manager of Strategic Digital Analytics at Porter Novelli.

Editor’s note: The chart above includes a Hurricane Irene marker because the writer had thought that the privacy changes happened entirely in September, so the weather event was the originally proposed hypothesis for why public status updates dropped. I reconciled the facts in the story, but couldn’t remove Irene from the chart without spending more time in Illustrator than I have available for this.