There’s widespread concern about privacy on these networks, according to a new survey
May 25, 2010 – Mark Dolliver
The presence of one’s near and dear ones on an online social network doesn’t stop people from being wary of the network itself, according to the findings of a Vision Critical survey released this month.
Respondents to the polling (fielded online in March) were asked how trustworthy they think online social networks are. Few of the U.S. respondents said they regard such networks as “completely trustworthy” (5 percent) or “very trustworthy” (11 percent). Thirty-five percent rated them “fairly trustworthy.” Nearly half said they’re “not very” (32 percent) or “not at all” (17 percent) trustworthy. (The polling was also conducted among adults in Canada and Britain, but this story focuses solely on the U.S. responses.)
Privacy is clearly an underlying concern behind such broad distrust. Sixty-three percent agreed with the statement, “I am very concerned about my privacy on online social networks.” Fifty-five percent agreed that they “worry that online social networks are selling my personal information to advertisers.”
The survey also asked respondents whether they agree with the statement, “I don’t mind online social networks using my personal preferences to target ads I see because it means they’ll be more relevant.” Six percent “agreed strongly” and 20 percent “agreed moderately.” But they were far outnumbered by those who “disagreed moderately” (23 percent) or “disagreed strongly” (30 percent, with the rest declining to choose or saying the question doesn’t apply to them).
It’s not as though word of mouth from family and friends is regarded as gospel. Fewer than half (47 percent) rated as “completely” or “very” trustworthy “friends/family/contacts discussing or recommending a brand/product” in the context of a social network.
Despite such negative opinions, though, 48 percent agreed that online social networks “are good places for brands/products to advertise to consumers.” Indeed, 18 percent said they’ve “purchased a product because of something I saw on an online social network,” with the figure rising to 28 percent among the 18-34-year-olds.