Privacy Concerns Rising Among Social Network Users
February 25, 2012

Privacy Concerns Rising Among Social Network Users

Users of social-networking websites such as Facebook are becoming less outgoing and increasingly guarded in terms of who they befriend and what contents are displayed on their pages, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports in a new study.

The report, which was released Friday, says that approximately two-thirds of all Internet users use social networking websites. Of those individuals, 63% said that they had deleted individuals from their "friends" lists, up from 56% in 2009. Women (67%) were more likely to have deleted people from their networks than men (58%), and younger users were more likely to unfriend people than older social networkers, they discovered.

In addition, 44% said that they had deleted comments others posted on their profiles, an increase from 36% from three years ago, Barbara Ortutay of the Associated Press (AP) noted. Pew also reported that 37% of survey participants said that they had "untagged" themselves from photos, or removed identifying markers that can display the image on the "tagged" person's account page. That was an increase of 7% from 2009.

"The Pew report also touches on the privacy settings people use for their SNS profiles," said Reuters' Ian Simpson. "The issue of online privacy has drawn increasing concerns from consumers, and the Obama administration has called for a 'privacy bill of rights' that would give users more control over their data."

According to the report, 48% of social media users said that they had some difficulty figuring out how to manage their privacy controls, while 49% said that they do not have any difficulty doing so. Only 2% described managing privacy settings as "very difficult," while 16% said they were "somewhat difficult" and 30% described the controls as being "not too difficult" to figure out.

Pew noted that 11% of all social network website users said that they had posted content that they regret, and according to Ortutay, men (15%) are more likely to have such "poster's remorse" than women (8%). Additionally, the study found that 18-to-29 year old users (15%) are more likely to post content that they eventually regret than those of at least 50 years of age (5%).

"Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said their main profile was set to be private so that only friends can see it," Simpson said. "Another 19 percent said they had set their profile to partially private so that friends of friends can see it. Only 20 percent have made their profile completely public."

The report was compiled following a telephone survey of 2,277 adults conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between April 26 and May 22, 2011of last year, with information regarding teenage users coming from a previous telephone study involving those individuals and their parents, according to the AP.

"The findings come a day after the Obama administration called for stronger privacy protections for people who use the Internet, mobile devices and other technologies with increasingly sophisticated ways of tracking them," said Ortutay.


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