Users of social networks, especially women and younger members, are managing their accounts better in recent years, Pew Research has found.
About two-thirds of Internet users belong to social networking sites, and metrics for profile management have improved, Pew said.
For one thing, users are cleaning house more. Overall, 63 percent of social networking site users have deleted friends, up from 56 percent in 2009.
They’re also getting better about keeping the front door shut. Fifty-eight percent of users say their main profile is set to “private,” which on most networks means it’s only viewable by an approved list of friends.
However, users are roughly equally divided in their ability to manage privacy controls on user profiles. Pew found that 48 percent of users report some level of difficulty; 49 percent say it’s not difficult at all.
Pew based its findings on a survey of nearly 2,300 adults in April and May.
“It’s clear from the big stories in the news right now that people really care about privacy,” Electronic Frontier Foundation spokesperson Rebecca Jeschke told TechNewsWorld.
Blaming users for not using privacy controls would be a mistake because “companies need to be much more transparent about the tools available and what they do or don’t do,” Jeschke added.
Who Does What Where
Pew also found that 44 percent of respondents have deleted comments made by others on their profile, and 37 percent have removed their names from photos on which they were tagged.
Women were more prudent profilers than men. Pew found that 67 percent of women on social networking sites had deleted people from their network; the figure for men was 58 percent. The same trend showed up when it came to profile privacy — 67 percent of women set the highest privacy restrictions on access to their profiles, while only 48 percent of men did so.
Male users and young adults are more prone to post content that they’ll regret later. Pew found that 15 percent of men and 8 percent of women posted content they later felt sorry for.
Only 5 percent of social networking site members 50 years and older posted content they regretted later, while 15 percent of social networking site members aged 18 to 29 did so.
Oh, to Be Young Again
Teenagers who use social media generally display the same behavior as their adult counterparts, Pew has found.
More than 60 percent of teenaged social networking site members said they most often set their profile to be private so access to their posts is restricted only to their friends. Another 20 percent maintain partially private profile settings, and only 17 percent set their profiles to be fully public.
The corresponding figures for adults are 58 percent using a private profile setting, 19 percent partially private and 20 percent completely public.
Young adults are more likely than their older counterparts to delete contacts from their friends list. About 70 percent of young adults surveyed said they’ve trimmed their friends list, compared to 63 percent of those aged 30 to 49, 56 percent of those aged 50 to 64, and 41 percent of those aged 65 or more.
Young adults were also more likely to delete comments on their profiles and remove photo tags, Pew found.
Privacy Isn’t Social Profile Control
“Pew doesn’t know what they’re doing,” Jeffrey Chester, executive director at the Center for Digital Democracy, told TechNewsWorld. “Their research is so one-dimensional here.”
Pew and “most members of the public” don’t understand the “powerful marketing strategies” Facebook uses to collect data on users and then influence their actions, Chester said.
“Before Pew analyzes user attitudes on Facebook, it should first examine the social network’s business practices,” Chester remarked. “Failure to peer into the stealth world of Facebook marketing limits Pews’ ability to come to any meaningful analysis.”
In November, well after the Pew survey was conducted, Facebook agreed to settle charges made by the Federal Trade Commission that it had violated users’ privacy. The FTC had alleged that Facebook had reneged on privacy promises it had made to users over the years to the extent that its actions at times threatened the health and safety of users.
That settlement requires, among other things, that Facebook get consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data.
Pew Research did not respond to requests for comment for this story.