Young People Blissfully Ignorant About Facebook Privacy

Don Tennant
Slide Show

Five Facts Facebook Should Know About Privacy

If the company would remember these five things about privacy, its execs might not shudder at the mere mention of the word.

As the incessant debate over Facebook's privacy policies continues to rage, what's becoming increasingly clear is that people in the fastest-growing Facebook demographic - college-age kids and young adults - don't really care all that much about their privacy. And the majority of Facebook users in just about all the other demographics don't, either.


Poll Position, a public opinion survey outfit in Atlanta, on Tuesday released the results of a survey of respondents to the question, "Are you comfortable with the personal information you provide on Facebook?" The 18-to-29 age group led the pack of "What, me worry?" respondents, as 81 percent said they were comfortable. That compares to 66.9 percent of respondents in the 30-to-44 age group, 69.1 percent of 45-to-64-year-olds, and 49.7 percent of those 65 and over.


According to iStrategyLabs, 30.9 percent of Facebook users are in the 18-24 age group, a jump of 74.1 percent in that group from last year. That age grouping doesn't conform exactly to the Poll Position age grouping, but it's a good indicator that that general range is the one that's growing at the fastest rate.


A csoonline.com article last year provided a list of 10 reasons why people should quit Facebook, and "Your privacy is history" was the No. 1 reason. The article addressed the fact that the younger crowd isn't particularly bothered by their loss of privacy. Here's an excerpt:

Scott Wright, a security consultant based in Canada said he was intrigued by the opinion of one academic who pointed out that the notion of privacy differs widely among generations.


"The 20-something view of privacy is basically that their parents not see what they are doing. That's about it," said Wright.


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apparently agrees. Zuckerberg made controversial remarks to a live audience [in early 2010] at an awards event and stated that openly sharing information with many people is today's social norm. He went on to say "We view it as our role in the system to constantly be innovating and be updating what our system is to reflect what the current social norms are." Many have translated this to mean Facebook doesn't think its users want much privacy, and the policies of the site reflect that view.

In any case, the results of the Poll Position survey also found that:


  • Hispanics (81 percent) are more comfortable with the personal information they provide on Facebook than Blacks (70.3 percent) or Whites (67.2 percent).
  • Females (74 percent) are more comfortable than males (62.6 percent).
  • Independents (74.6 percent) are more comfortable than Democrats (71.4 percent) or Republicans (61.8 percent).

The Poll Position survey, conducted by phone on Dec. 1, polled 1,174 registered voters in the United States. The poll results reflect the responses of the 496 of those voters who said they were Facebook users, and are weighted to be a representative sampling of all American adults.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 8, 2011 10:33 AM SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6 SealTeam6  says:

The effect of having instant global access to broadcast your every thought is creating a generation of clueless people with no concept of private, personal and confidential separation from public visibility. I wonder what the longer term social effects will be when such people come into positions of national security and other areas requiring the ability to compartmentalize information and its access.


This story summarizes our Generation Tweet:


Dec 12, 2011 4:21 PM Richard Richard  says:


I don't necessarily think they are clueless.  Ultimately, there is not a lot of data that people put on Facebook which could be abused. 

Also, the question doesn't actually ask what personal data they are happy to give (they may be security aware enough to only give the data they are happy to give but would refuse other data).  Personally, I find it weirder that anyone would be both unhappy to give the data and yet still use Facebook.

I think a lot of the older people are simply going to have a general nervousness around the internet. If the question was "Are you comfortable banking online", I'm sure you would get a similar generational result.

Dec 20, 2011 10:41 AM Bob Bob  says:

Nothing teaches a person the value of watching what you say more than having an innocent comment in a court deposition twisted and distorted so far out of context that it is turned into a bare faced lie, having no recourse to set the record straight in court, and just sitting there not allowed to speak.  Even if it wasn't a critical matter being decided.

I can understand a person in their teens not understanding this and naively wondering into the world of facebook, but the number of people over 25 doing it (who ought to know better) stuns me.  If you havent been involved in any court matter by then, surely you know someone who has.

If you ever go to court over anything, the other side is going to take something about you, that has no real relevance to the case, totally blow it out of proportion, and make that their case (That's what they do when they have NO case, have seen it done twice, once just as a witness for the town's housing inspector, wasn't even personally involved in the case, has no 'skin in the game')

You're giving any future opposing lawyer a candy store to pick from, to distort who you are, when you use facebook

And that's just one of a zillion hazzards, such as con men, fraudsters, blackmailers, stalkers, burglars, insane people etc.

Thanks for raising this issue, Don, someday every journalist will be asked 'why didnt you say anything?'.  You can answer 'I did'

Dec 20, 2011 11:09 AM Bob Bob  says: in response to Bob

at the most obvious level though, facebook and social media sites make it radically easier to crack people's financial accounts.  Most people choose security question answers and passwords by th efirst thing that pops into their head, so they can get past the question/password selection screen, and on to their business

If you have on facebook

'We had a great time at the Anderson family reunion'. and your last name isnt 'Anderson', you may have given away 'Mother's maiden name', the most common security question

or 'Had a great time at XYZ high school reuniion', you may fave given away 'place where you were borm, another security question

Ever get a seat belt ticket?  your state probably has your birth day on the state's court record site (thanks, state!, identity theives really appreciate it!)

Have pictures of your kids, pets etc? a field of guesses for your passwords.

facebook and sites like it can radically undermine the security of you online accessable financial accounts (in fact, i think it's dangerous to have an account that does not have a physical password challange device)

Some may not understand this until they log in and see all their money, gone.


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