The user base of social networking sites has grown many folds since they came into existence on a large scale in the late 1990’s. The number of adult Internet users having a social media profile almost quadrupled between 2005 and 2008 and in 2012 these figures were anticipated to rise to 1.43 billion. But the flip side involved with the increasing popularity of social media is the growing concern of the folks about their privacy on such social pulpits.
According to a research conducted in 2014 by Harris Interactive for WP Engine, it deduced that out of the 172.6 million Internet users in The United States, 66% of them were really anxious about their penetralia on the social websites with Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) topping this concern list. The study further deduced that more than one-third of those surveyed were worried about their privacy on photo-sharing platforms like Instagram, almost one-fourth were uptight about security on the micro blogging sites like Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR) and a similar proportion responded on the same lines to the disappearing photo sharing apps like Snapchat.
The privacy levels offered by various sites differ substantially. Generally, those websites which promote information revelations don’t have to face any serious botheration on obtaining it from their users as the majority of them have no troubles on disclosing their privy information to a wide mob. In a study performed in 2005 on the 540 Facebook profiles of the students studying in Carnegie Mellon University, it was found that 89% of the users gave legitimate names and 61% of them gave their genuine photographs for easier identifications. The majority of these users had also not amended their privacy settings, giving a large number of unknown people access to their personal information. All these factors have heated up the debate that the social media users are catering too much intimacy of themselves, which can have serious repercussions on the privacy of their lives.
The driving reason behind the security and privacy issues on these social networking sites is the result of the gigantic amounts of information which these sites concoct every day and the features which involve the direct participation of the users like the messages, photos and other applications serve as a promenade for intruders to gain access to other’s private data. Taking the case of Facebook, Adrienne Felt, a Ph.D. candidate at Berkley uncovered an annihilating loop hole in the Facebook’s third-party application programming interface (API), gleaning of them to be supplied with more than required user information.
In an another study conducted by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and craigconnects’ Craig Newmark in May 2014, almost similar results to the previous researches to social privacy were found out. Amidst the total polled US internet users, 57% acknowledged of having little or no trust on the social media giant like Facebook and Twitter, 22% of them accepted to have some trust on them, whereas 7% authorized them as trustworthy. Talking in terms of the age groups, the study further added to its findings that one-third of the Internet users aged between 55 and 64 approved that they didn’t trust the social media sites while just a mere 1% of them did and analogous results were obtained amidst the 65 and older age groups. Furthermore, 24% of those aged between 35 and 54 didn’t have faith on the social sites, in contrast to 6% of those who thought opposite to them. The only age group which perceived an inverse trend in terms of trusting phenomenon of these social networks was the below 35 bracket whose ratio was 16:12 with the larger proportion on the trusting side.
The preventive measures adopted
Most of the social media giants have responded strongly to these criticisms of privacy intrusion and have been assuring the users that with the updated features of default settings and third-party data sharing policies, they are trying to safeguard the personal information of users to all possible extents. However, the dissatisfaction among the social users continues to persist which would not be easy for these social networks to mitigate because if one step these websites take in the direction of increasing the user privacy, two more aspects of jitters start to dwell in the minds of the users regarding new fears of intrusion of their secrecy.