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Consumers Adapt Their Social Media Use Given Privacy Concerns

Pew Internet recently released the results of a second quarter 2011 survey about consumers' usage of social networking web sites and privacy. The survey found that consumers are adapting their usage of social networking web sites given privacy concerns:

  • 63% of survey respondents have deleted people from their “friends” lists, up from 56% in 2009,
  • 58% of users restrict access to their profiles on social networking websites. More women (67%) do this than men (48%),
  • 48% of users have had some difficulty managing their profile privacy settings on social networking web sites,
  • 44% have deleted comments made by others on their profile,
  • 37% have removed their names from photos that were tagged to identify them, and
  • 11% have posted content they regret.

It will be interesting to see how much further adaptation occurs in next year's survey results, since users will have had more time to use features, like the Timeline feature from Facebook. I have talked with consumers who use the Timeline feature to delete harmful archived status messages, since employers now use social networking web sites to screen job applicants, to determine credit worthiness, and to evaluate insurance worthiness.

Some consumers use the new Facebook Profile Preview feature to screen and reject their friends' attempts to tag them in status messages and photographs. That seems very wise since too many users (42% total) don't restrict access to their profiles.

Should companies use social networking websites for financial, insurance, and employment screening uses? That's debatable, but the reality is that companies use the data anyway for screening, and the social networking sites are happy to make more money. My advice: prune your profile of harmful archived posts, and don't post anything at a social networking web sites that you don't want read/shown in court.

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