Facebook is deeply integrated in users’ daily lives through specific routines and rituals. Users claimed to understand privacy issues, yet reported uploading large amounts of personal information. Risks to privacy invasion were ascribed more to others than to the self. However, users reporting privacy invasion were more likely to change privacy settings than those merely hearing about others’ privacy invasions. Results suggest that this lax attitude may be based on a combination of high gratification, usage patterns, and a psychological mechanism similar to third-person effect. Safer use of social network services would thus require changes in user attitude.

Here’s one about the same network four years later.

Debatin, B., Lovejoy, J.P., Horn, A-K, Hughes, B.N. (2009). Facebook and Online Privacy: Attitudes, Behaviors, and Unintended Consequences. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Vol 15(1): 83-108.

(full text)

why it was rated as having severe privacy flaws in a 2007 audit of websites by Privacy International:

concerns about data matching, data mining, transfers to other companies, and in particular Facebook’s curious policy that it “may also collect information about [its users] other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service”

They suggest that users are motivated to share information based on three theoretical frameworks:

1) Uses and Gratifications Approach:

how people use media to fulfill their various needs, among them the three dimensions of (1) the need for diversion and entertainment, (2) the need for (para-social) relationships, and (3) the need for identity construction (Blumler & Katz, 1974; LaRose, Mastro, & Eastin 2001; Rosengren, Palmgreen, & Wenner, 1985)

2) Third Person Effect:

people expect mass media to have a greater effect on others than on themselves.

negative side effects are ascribed to others, while the positive effects are ascribed to oneself

3) Theory of Ritualized Media Use:

the use of Facebook is at least to some degree ritualized and (subcutaneously) built into its users’ daily life

Excellent references.

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