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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection | post

Facebook Users May Be Getting the Security Message

by Neal O'Farrell on

In today’s post, Intersections’ Consumer Security Adviser Neal O’Farrell shares the results of a recent study on social network safety and security. Bottom line? People are becoming less “social” on social networks. Read on!

We’ve been monitoring and writing about the issues surrounding social networking safety and security for many years. During that time, we’ve been very concerned that no-one was really getting the Facebook safety and security message. We're glad we were wrong, because according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project & American Life, users of social networking sites (or SNS) are becoming more careful and acting more cautiously.

According to Pew "Social network users are becoming more active in pruning and managing their accounts. Women and younger users tend to unfriend more than others." About two-thirds of internet users now use some kind of social networking site, Facebook and Twitter being the most popular.
Of these users:

  • 63% of them have deleted people from their "friends" lists, up from 56% in 2009.
  • 44% have deleted comments made by others on their profile.
  • 37% have removed their names from photos that were tagged to identify them.
  • 67% of women who maintain a profile say they have deleted people from their network, compared with 58% of men. Likewise, young adults are more active "unfrienders" when compared with older users.
  • A majority of social network site users — 58% — restrict access to their profiles and women are significantly more likely to choose private settings.
  • More than half of social networking site users (58%) say their main profile is set to private so that only friends can see it.
  • 19% set their profile to partially private so that friends of friends can view it.

Unfortunately, some people just don't get the security message. At least one in every five social networking user says their main profile is set to be completely public. Women who use SNS are more likely than men to set the highest restrictions (67% vs. 48%).

The personal security situation could be even better, and safer, if users didn't have so many problems figuring out how to master their privacy settings. Half of SNS users say they have some difficulty in managing privacy controls. Those with the most education report the most trouble. In all, 48% of social media users report some level of difficulty in managing the privacy controls on their profile, while 49% say that it is "not difficult at all."

Regrets? It seems like some social networking users have had a few. According to the study:

  • About one in every ten social networking users have posted content they regret.
  •  Male profile owners are almost twice as likely as female profile owners to profess regret for posting content (15% vs. 8%).
  • Young adults are also more prone to say they regret some of their social media postings; 15% of profile owners ages 18-29 say they have posted content they later regret, compared with just 5% of profile owners ages 50 and older.

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