Just How Concerned with Privacy Are Facebook Users?

Report Looks at Public Reaction vs. Media Sensationalism

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PeopleBrowsr shared a rather interesting report with us this week, looking at privacy related tweets during the center of this year’s Facebook "privacy storm." The firm studied the public’s reaction to Facebook’s open graph-related announcements that set off the majority of the Facebook privacy controversy back in April.

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The report specifically compares the general public’s (or at least the portion that uses Twitter) thoughts about Facebook privacy with the media sensationalism around the story. The firm studied tweets with references to privacy, along with other keywords like Facebook, Open Graph, Zuckerberg, and Google.

"We are the last generation to know privacy as it was," says Brian Solis, Chief Data Analyst for PeopleBrowsr. "As Facebook moves human connections and society into a more public spotlight, people and the press will push back. But this will move things forward collaboratively. Over time I believe the debate will evolve into a series of productive forums and memes that explore the risks of living in public and the rewards for participation."

Privacy Discussion on Twitter

Privacy Discussion on Twitter

Some of PeopleBrowsr’s findings from the study:

- Prior to the F8 conference on April 24, privacy tweets hovered between 1,000-3,000 references per day, then spiked to 9,000 on the day of F8

– On April 25 (day after the conference), privacy-related tweets fell to 3,500 – then surged to 7,500 when politicians joined the fray. Around May 25, privacy discussions hit the ceiling in this study with 20,000 unique discussions.

– In terms of context, Facebook dominated the landscape for mentions of #privacy

– Conversations followed media reports

"We see that even on the day when privacy took center stage, the media sensationalized the topic. But the public, at least those on Twitter, did not flood the streets with 140 character picket signs. 9,000 tweets does not seem to account for the millions of Twitter users or the 500 million people who have Facebook accounts," says Solis.

That last statement is true on a couple of different levels. For Solis’ purpose it does not appear to indicate that the majority of Facebook users were that concerned. However, it is also worth noting that the majority of Facebook users are not necessarily active Twitter users. Facebook has over 500 million people. It’s not a flawless argument, and the findings should be taken with a grain of salt like any such study. That said, Twitter is generally viewed as a good indication of public opinion, as trending topics often reflect pop culture and news at large. If there is something significant happening, you can generally find people talking about it on Twitter.

Besides, Facebook’s numbers continued to grow. Diaspora (the "Facebook alternative") will be here soon. I’m willing to bet that will have little impact on Facebook’s growth as well.

Do you think the privacy discussion around Facebook was overblown? Share your thoughts.

Just How Concerned with Privacy Are Facebook Users?
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  • Guest

    I stopped using faceb**k completely after reading this:


    and this:


    I will never again worry about their security problems, because I booked it from that site!

    Whoops, am I gonna’ get in trouble for using the work “book”? lol :D

  • Rob

    I’ve always avoided this topic because it is really stupid to think a significant portion of Facebook users cares about their privacy. This is just media sensationalism. I don’t use facebook although I have an account. This house is full of teenagers all the time and they all basically live and eat on Facebook. I asked them once about this privacy issue on FB and they said “WHAT? What’s up? Who is Steven Colbert?”

    It’s common sense. If you have a Facebook account, it is safe to assume you don’t care about your privacy. I would put my hands on the chop block that 99.9% percent of FB users don’t even care or know there is an privacy issue with Facebook or even that this subject is being discussed on the web. Media sensationalism.

  • http://iphone4insurance.org.uk Bryan

    It is a great issue in the net about privacy and because of its rapid spread it is uncontrollable. Facebook users are sometimes hacked and therefore looses their account. It is a matter of responsibility and we should looked at it with keen eyes. Thanks for the great post. More power.

  • http://www.mirnabard.com Kenneth Forrest

    Just don’t be overconfident that our account in facebook will be kept within our account. We just have to avoid and create some precautions to make our facebook account not susceptible to this privacy problems.

  • Guest

    Best to assume that “what happens on FB doesn’t stay on FB”. As long as I have the choice of what goes up there and what doesn’t, that’s fine.

    I *do* take issue with anything which takes that control away, like the Places feature allowing others to check me in to someplace by default. I switched it off, but that should never have defaulted to allowing anyone other than me to make those updates.

    Also, I would tend to question whether Twitter users are the best indicator. The people most likely to influence the trending topics are really a self-selecting group consisting of those people who post a lot on social networks. That’s the same group of people who are LEAST likely to care about this issue.

  • http://www.thefranchiseking.com Joel Libava

    Thanks a lot for putting the FB privacy concerns out there.

    Some nasty comments have started to come in on a post that I wrote last week called, “Does Facebook Need To Go Bye-Bye” I guess that means it affected a few folks, anyway. Facebook has an attitude problem.


    The Franchise King

  • http://panamabrokersonline.com PeeWee

    YEAH!! it can be use to upgrade our popularity with Narsism..

  • http://www.webdesignerillinois.com Guest

    I would say that this study is useless. Out of about 400 friends I have on FB, less than 10 of them use Twitter with any regularity.

  • https://www.canadaseopro.ca Todd Herman

    WAS very concerned! This is the reason i have 100% deleted my facebook account due to constant violation of my privacy. They know absolutely everything there is to know about you. all the data on that website is recorded and kept for legal reasons, (read the fine print) not that I have anything to hide but I like my life uncontrolled thank you! Wow!

  • Maureen

    I bailed out of Facebook several months ago, when we were told that our information would be shared with other Facebook organizations (?) unless we opted OUT. That struck me as completely wrong. Seems like we should have to give permission first, instead of withdrawing our permission that wasn’t granted by us in the first place. However, I have no illusions that my information is by any means gone out of Facebook or protected by my actions. At the time that I closed my account, the fine print stated that all I had to do was pull up Facebook again and they would immediately restore my information. Do you know how hard this is to avoid? Facebook has repeatedly tried to trick me into doing this by sending various emails about messages waiting for me or so-and-so looking for me on Facebook. And there are so many companies that, if you aren’t careful, will direct you to their link on Facebook, where I would be snagged again. I was never a big user of Facebook; didn’t play all the games, etc. Maybe a couple of times a month I would go there and see if I had anything interesting. I much prefer interacting with my friends directly by email, or even better, the old fashioned way, by phone (and I don’t mean texting).

  • http://www.ohlalumnicentral.com Tom

    Why are people so worried about Facebook itself breaching any code of privacy when any user can post whatever pictures of whoever they want without any consent whatsoever without any consequences. It’s not Facebook people should be worried about, it’s their ‘friends’.

  • Rockman

    Problem is most FB users don’t understand how much of their personal data is public or how FB uses it, they have no clue. They’ll learn, eventually. Old saying, “it’s always your friends who betray you because they know the most about you.” If anyone has any sense they’d kill their FB account.

  • Guest

    The whole attitude of Zuckerberg to privacy every time he is asked just amazes me and is reflected in the way FB works – by default you have zero privacy or security and it’s up to you to fix that – miss something and it can be a problem.
    I was on FB twice – backed out the first time when the whole security thing was a total shambles – was convinced to go back by family and then killed my account the second time after my son’s account was hacked. He’s no naive user being an IT security officer!
    FB didn’t care at all.
    Basically if you’re at all concerned for your privacy don’t have anything to do with FB because all they want to do is data mine everything they can and sell it off to whoever.

  • David Claxton

    I am concerned about security, not just my own but that of my family. I do not subscribe to Facebook, other family members do and I am not only surprised but often astounded by the amount of information freely given on such a site. There are folk in the military on ops in Afghanistan happily telling folks back home about their experience, the operations they’ve not only been on but also those they are still active on. In 1982 there was an amazing amount of info published in the UK press about operations, but that information pales into insignificance when compared to what serving troops are making available to the global community.

  • http://blog.famebook.com Jan

    The problem here is that on the issue of privacy it is no defense to

  • God

    I think all this b….ing about Facebook’s privacy is ridiculous and laughable. What do you expect from free services and a place created for low self esteem people???? If you have a facebook account, you don’t care about your privacy. Facebook is nothing in this world. Delete your damn account and that’s it.

    You should worry about Google’s privacy. They own the damn world. Even if you don’t use Google you are tracked by their analytics on millions of websites and other properties you don’t even know they own. Visit www.insidegoogle.com

    Again, this bit…ing about Facebook’s privacy is just laughable. You don’t need Facebook!

  • Brenda

    Here’s where the ‘rubber meets the road’ on privacy. It doesnt exist!

    People electively GIVE away their privacy by clicking “I Agree” on pretty much anything they do online. In this day and age, it is hard to pinpoint all the volume of places we give permission to have our private information shared and who they share it with. Don’t believe me? Read all the language in all the lengthy privacy statements we are asked to read, agree to and click.

    The REAL problem is security on Facebook. My firm has tried contacting them about our keystroke encryption software. We tried for over a year! They didn’t respond. Only thing we can conclude is because it’s free, it user beware… use at your own risk. Not our problem or concern.

    If anyone wants to learn how to protect yourself no matter what websites you interact with, don’t sit back and wait for Facebook or any other online vendor to care. We need to take back security and manage it ourselves!

    Think your anti-virus, even when updated keeps you secure? Think again!

    Think online banking is safe? Think again!

    Think SSL keeps you secure? Think again!

    I invite you to go to: www.SecureMySocialNetworking.com and read what we have to say about anti-virus programs and look at the low cost solution which provides superior protection few know about.

  • polly armstrong


    • Guest

      For many people, part of life is protecting themselves or their loved ones from a dangerous or violent situation that lurks around every corner of their life. They want very much to be connected in ways that facebook teases them about — so many of us have so much fun being able to share our happiness and support, but these folks have to be afraid for their own lives. You can not understand unless you’ve been there. If facebook would put privacy FIRST, then they would have a lot more people on there. I know a huge number of folks who refuse to sign up, due to facebook being more about helping them be found by those who are a danger than helping them stay connected with those who would be supportive and protected from those who would harm them. But, you don’t care, because you have fun on there and everyone else should, right? They COULD, too, if facebook would let them.

  • http://www.vipeakmill.com grinder mill

    I want to signup on Facebook, but even now , I didn’t .at the same time ,I focus on all what is concerning of Facebook

  • http://www.sebastyne.com Sebastyn

    Unplug your network cable. Now, you’re safe.

    Don’t put stuff on Facebook you don’t want your worst enemy to find, treat it like a post card – anyone can read it on the way.

    It’s ridiculous to first update your status with the details about your visit to the gynaecologist and on the next update complain about Facebook’s privacy issues.

    Just make sure your account is not easy to hack, like hide your email address(=login) from everyone, and use a special one for it, something password-like. You don’t want some dh spam your friends, but do you really worry about some company finding out you like their product? Ooooo scary.

    And yes, I know about abusive ex husbands. Your situation is extraordinary, and you have to act in a way that Facebook doesn’t create a threat for you. Start slow. Learn your way around. Think ahead. Know where and how your updates will be shared. Don’t ever write a status update where it becomes clear where you are if you’re not at home. (Don’t do mobile updates.) Would you EVER trust someone else to care about your situation more than you do anyway? If you even expect that, you’re being naive and you’ve experienced too much to be naive, haven’t you?

  • http://smobot.com Smobot

    Sampling from the Twitter demographic might not be an accurate representation of the general public. Twitter users like having random strangers read their communications…

  • http://www.mabuzi.com Kevin

    There is security and there is privacy.
    By going on the net your forgo both.

    Privacy: Your IP address is easily tracked and you can find anybody’s IP address and physical address by using IP tracking software. As the another blogger suggest as soon as you sign up your privacy is gone. Apple and i-phone are by far the worst culprits here.

    Security is up to you. Dont put your physical address, phone number, credit card details (Doh!) or date of birth on Facebook. Easy, that should reduce your risk by 90%.
    If she has a hot profile picture and wants to be your mate on FB, well err…you get what you deserve.

    • Brenda

      Although you are correct about what a person chooses to publish on their FB profile, you are overlooking the issue of security as it relates to malware attacks. There are lots of shared pictures, music, videos, surveys and clickable links that are embedded with malware which can steal ANYTHING you type on your computer once the undetectable malware (malware escaping anti-virus program protection) is downloaded on your computer.

      Facebook is a Petri-dish for malware attacks. For those who do not know how easy it is to have your login credentials stolen no matter how many times you change your username and password should look up “clickjacking” and “keylogging” attacks.

      With that being said, there is security measures one needs to take in order to protect yourself when posting personal information (including birthdates which should NEVER be posted) and then there is the security risks that exists which makes every computer vulnerable to attack. This isn’t just a Facebook issue, it’s an Internet issue.

  • http://www.bloomsofguernsey.com John

    As a very recent new subscriber to Facebook, OK I’m 62 years of age and it took me a long time to catch up with “the generation”, I would welcome any advice that anyone can give me about subjects such as privacy etc. My wife calls me Johnny no mates as I have not signed up any friends yet. Hopefully there is still time for an old man to bloosom.

  • http://kathyblogger.com Kathy

    It should be quite obvious that the people who are concerned about Facebook privacy are not using Twitter. This entire study and the conclusions drawn from it are an example of how not to conduct a study. It doesn’t take a genius to realize this.

    People are rightfully concerned with privacy on Facebook. If more people were made aware of the pitfalls of displaying your personal life in public, they would most certainly be heard speaking against it.

    Whoever’s idea it was to conduct this study should get a job working for a politician who wants to invent studies that distort true public opinion.

  • Hyon Festa

    Facebook has what it takes to be the number one social networking site. The only flaw in it is its privacy policies. Facebook must review its privacy policies to ensure full privacy to its users.

    • bakit

      Er Er… Facebook is the number 1 social networking site genius. Nice link spam.

  • http://www.mylittleownplace.weebly.com lynneldfd

    If they are really concerned with their privacy then they should limit themselves from posting personal information

  • Charis Lagergren

    Yeah!! facebook must review its privacy policies in order to ensure full privacy of its users…

  • http://www.acomputerportal.com/social_bookmarks.html Not just FaceBook

    It’s Not just FaceBook who we should worry about.

    Their are lots of well known services who are very free with our privacy, making money from it.

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