In spite of social media sites like Google+, Facebook, and Twitter becoming wildly popular around the world, a huge bloc of those sites' users worry about that their personal information on those sites will be stolen or misused. In fact, according to a new study, 40% of users don't feel safe on any of those websites.
Obviously, the knee-jerk reaction to that news is, "Well, don't put your personal information on there," but that's not exactly a constructive response. It's always safest to put as little personal information as possible out there in the internet, sure, but social media sites have an undeniable ubiquity with the internet experience. Facebook has 900 million registered users, Twitter aims to peak at 2 billion, and Google has a presence on nearly every part of the internet, so it's not easy to escape from social media in 2012's internet. Stepping out from the shadow of these social media sites may be tantamount to walking away from the internet altogether.
The study was conducted by IT security guru Avira using answers from 2,710 participants from around the world polled during January and February of this year. Among the survey questions asked, Avira posed the following question: "Which of the following social media sites worry you most regarding your personal information being in danger of being stolen or misused? (choose only one)". A very wary 40% selected "All of the above - I do not feel safe when using social media sites" when given the choices of Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
Individually, Facebook was the least trusted site as 25% of respondents said they worried about the site's ability to handle their personal information. Google+ wasn't far behind at 19% and Twitter, surprisingly, only collected 2% when singled out.
Incredibly, 14% of people out there in the world said they aren't worried at all about the security of their personal information on social media sites. Additional questions revealed that these people also believe money grows on trees and that Elvis actually faked his death in order to sneak away and elope with a robust chocolate magnate in Switzerland.
Looking at the longer side of these numbers, though, 25% of people distrust Facebook as well as another 40% that don't trust any of them, summing to 65% of people taking part in this poll. For Google+, that number stretches out to 59%. Combining the two sites, a gobsmacking 84% of people that participated in this study worry about their personal information being stolen or misused from these two sites.
Sorin Mustaca, a data security expert of Avira GmbH, reiterated the discouraging nature of social media sites. "Never forget that as soon as any information is published on a public website, it doesn't actually belong to you anymore," he said. For those that are concerned about losing control of their information - which would essentially be everybody - he cautioned, "I strongly advise not storing private data on these websites."
The study didn't clarify why the participants felt so unsettled about using these sites. Still, even if they had the most water-tight explanations for their concern, those anxieties certainly aren't deterring people from going back to these sites. And if we all keep using them with blind abandon, what's to say that any of these sites should make efforts to allay our concerns if we're just going to come back anyways?