The Facts Speak for Themselves on Privacy for Social Networking Sites

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Res ipsa loquitor means “the facts speak for themselves.”  However, for quite some time, it’s been difficult to obtain straight facts on privacy issues since they came from loaded questions.  But a new Pew Research Institute study shows that social networking sites provide significant public good, and that if consumers are concerned about using such sites, as privacy groups like Common Sense Media suggest, consumers’ actions do not reflect such concerns.

So rather than taking the facts and applying some “spin” to them, I will list the facts and let them do the talking.

The Pew study found that:

  1. “Facebook users are more trusting than other people.”  Facebook users are three times more likely to trust other people than non-internet users.
  2. Social network users “are more politically engaged.”  LinkedIn users, for example, are 19% more likely to vote than those not using social networking sites.
  3. “Facebook users have more close relationships.”  Facebook users have 9% more close relationships.

So social networking helps society by generating more trusting, socially interactive, and politically active users.

In fact, just today US Representative Whitman stated that users of social networking sites ask better questions of his office and provide better feedback since those users have taken the time to better learn the issues.

But the results of this Pew study don’t stop there.

Along with the positives generated from social media, the Pew study also helped dismiss many of the anti-social networking allegations of privacy groups such as Common Sense Media.

Last year, Common Sense Media commissioned a study that concluded, “83% of adults … are more concerned about online privacy than they were five years ago.”

But the numbers just don’t add up.  The Pew study found that people who use social networking sites are more trusting now than they were five years ago.  And the study found an increase of 51% of all adults using social networking sites now as opposed to 8 years ago.  If people are more concerned about privacy, their habits certainly do not reflect such fears.

Common Sense Media study found only 24% of adults surveyed said they would prefer to pay for ad-supported services they get for free today and not share any information.

It’s not just Pew’s numbers that can do the talking.  There are lots of people willing to overlook privacy concerns to use social networking sites.  Facebook has over 750 million users.  LinkedIn sees 1.3 million new subscribers every month.  And Twitter sees 300,000 new accounts every day.

Letting Common Sense Media’s own numbers speak for themselves, they too oppose Common Sense Media’s allegations.

In that same Common Sense Media study mentioned above only 24% of adults surveyed said they would prefer to pay for ad-supported services they get for free today and not share any information.  While Common Sense Media didn’t mention this result in their summary; this is the real trade off between privacy and free services.

Perhaps the privacy advocates should take a moment and actually look at the numbers and what they say.  Social networking sites create better citizens who are more than happy to continue enjoying their free services in exchange for a little bit of information…res ipsa loquitor.

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