Social Media Survey: Privacy, Security Concerns Persist

Facebook and other social networking sites don't do enough to protect privacy, say users.

February 10, 2012

3 Min Read
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A new survey shows that privacy and security concerns persist for many Facebook users, despite recent efforts to address those concerns.

Privacy and security top the list of concerns, according to the findings of the Social Media Habits and Privacy Concerns Survey, a new study by uSamp. uSamp surveyed nearly 600 men and women from a nationwide sample about the social media sites they use and the kind of information they divulge online.

Facebook, as we all know, is still the undisputed social media leader, with 80% of all survey respondents logging into the site. YouTube was next (46% used it), then Twitter(33%) and, then somewhat surprisingly, MySpace at 32%.

[ Are cybercriminals' inventories overstocked? See 'Factory Outlets' Sell Stolen Facebook, Twitter Credentials . ]

The big takeaway of the survey is this: Although 65% of respondents said they were generally comfortable with privacy protections on social media sites, they still were concerned about privacy risks. Google recently published research arguing that social media enhances privacy, but most people aren't buying it.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents expressed some level of discomfort about privacy protections. And among those who eschew social media sites, 73% cited privacy concerns as their reason for not participating.

The survey revealed that social media users know they need to be careful with what they reveal, but they also believe companies aren't doing enough to protect privacy. About 85% of respondents said that users should bear primary responsibility for their own privacy--but at the same time, 75% agreed that social media sites themselves also should assume responsibility for privacy protection.

"User privacy is an enormously dynamic area, and even as site operators attempt to address the issue, consumer perceptions are slow to change," Lisa Wilding-Brown, a uSamp vice president, said in a statement.

The big question for social media sites in the coming years is will privacy and security concerns--combined with social media fatigue--cause users to significantly reduce their use of the sites and services?

The survey also highlighted social media gender differences. Women of all ages were generally more worried than men about both privacy and personal security. Women are just as willing as men to provide information about their jobs, relationships, brand preferences, and political and religious affiliations. But when it comes to details such as phone numbers, email, and addresses, women are significantly more wary than men.

Three-quarters of both men and women were willing to share their relationship status, but only 20% of women would share their location, compared to 35% of men willing to divulge that information. And although 55% of men don't mind sharing their email address, only 42% of women would do so.

The study contains many useful details about which age groups use social media:

-- Younger respondents are heavier users of social media than their elders, with 86% of the 18-24 age group visiting social media sites daily.

-- Older women use social media more than older men--60% of women over 50 visited sites daily, while only 37% of men in the same age group were daily visitors.

-- Women over 35 are more likely to use Facebook than men in the same age group.

Social media are generating tons of data, but that data only becomes truly valuable when examined in context. Attend the virtual Enterprise 2.0 event Social Analytics: The Bridge To Business Value, and learn how social analytics will provide the bridge to unlocking business value. It happens Feb. 16.

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