Social Networking Users Posting Risky Information: Survey
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Wednesday, 05 May 2010
By Cara Garretson
The majority of adults who use social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have posted "risky personal information" on them, according to a recent survey conducted by Consumer Reports.
In its 2010 Consumer Reports State of the Net survey, which is covered in the June edition of the magazine, the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 52 percent of adults are posting risky personal data online, and that 23 percent of Facebook users don't realize the site offers privacy settings, or choose not to use them.
In a blog post about the survey results, Consumer Reports also projected that 1.7 million households with online access had experienced identity theft related to that access in the past year. The summary also estimates that of the consumers who go online, 5.4 million submitted personal or financial information to Web sites that were involved in phishing scams.
But according to Consumer Reports, activity on social networking sites is the cause for most concern. For example, 38 percent of adults who say they use social networking sites posted their full birth date -- including the year -- with their personal information. And 45 percent of social media users who have kids have posted photographs of them. Of the social networking users, 8 percent posted their entire street address.
Consumer Reports estimates that 5.1 million households with Internet access have experienced some type of abuse on social networking sites in the past year, including malware infections, scams, and harassment. The company estimates that 18.4 million adult Facebook users also use apps on the site, such as games and quizzes. Of those adults, 38 percent said they were "confident" that the apps were secure, or hadn't thought about it. Yet Consumer Reports projects that 1.8 million PCs were infected by apps found on social media sites in the past year.
"Consumer Reports believes users aren't the only ones who need to take responsibility for their personal data," wrote associate editor Donna Tapellini. "Social networks need to improve their privacy practices, as well as better educate their users."
Facebook's privacy settings continue to get more complex as the company adds more services to the site, says Tapellini, requiring users to take multiple steps to "re-implement the privacy they thought they already had."
The blog points out that Facebook's new instant personalization feature, part of Facebook's latest update, has caused so much concern that a few U.S. senators recently called on the company to immediately change the offering, and asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to set privacy guidelines for social networking sites. Facebook's new feature automatically shares members' preferences and favorites with partnering sites such as Pandora, unless the user adjusts the privacy settings.
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