Study: Half of us Care About Social Network and Geolocation Privacy – But What are we Doing About it?

Two separate studies were conducted this week that suggest that social network and geolocation users are torn right down the middle when it comes to issues of privacy. Both studies showed that for about half of the respondents, privacy is their number one concern. However, this has yet to translate to any mass exodus from either social networks or geolocation services like Foursquare. And one of the surveys indicates that people are actually engaging in behavior that increases their lack of privacy rather than diminishes it. So why are we saying one thing, but doing another when it comes to privacy?

Earlier in the week Webroot conducted a survey about the geolocation services that consumers use and their attitudes towards them. Out of the 1,200 surveyed social media users, 39 percent of them were actively using some sort of geolocation service on their mobile device – either Foursquare, Twitter’s new geolocation feature, or another. The primary concern of these users is their privacy: a full 55 percent responded that they are worried the geolocation service puts their privacy at risk. Privacy is even more important to these users than security, with only 45 percent indicating that they were worried about broadcasting when their house was empty to potential burglars.

A number of bad habits and privacy breaches was found among these respondents. 31 percent say they accept friend requests, follow, or otherwise connect with complete strangers, and 76 percent click on links posted on social networks. These actions could potentially explain why so many were victims of a phishing scam, had a malware infection, or saw their social network profile compromised (one quarter, one in six, and one in nine respectively).

Survey number two of this week was conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. Findings from this 1004 person study reveal that 50 percent of Americans with a social networking profile are concerned about privacy. Those over 60 are most concerned, and women are generally more concerned than men. While no behavioral data was gathered for this survey, we can assume that it would be similar to that of the Webroot survey, with a significant proportion of respondents engaging in activities that put their privacy and security at risk.

If half of us are that concerned about privacy, it should stand to reason that we would do something about it. However, rather than leaving these networks that cause so much concern, people continue to sign up: Facebook will be announcing its 500 million user milestone any day now, and Foursquare has reached 1.8 million users in its first year alone.

If leaving the networks is not an option, maybe those of us who are concerned about privacy are fiddling with our settings. Facebook has been releasing privacy update after privacy update to try to respond to users’ concerns, while Foursquare keeps most of your information within your circle of friends. Is this enough to assuage the worries over privacy?

How concerned are you about your privacy on social networks and geolocation services? And if you are concerned, have you done anything to address it?