With Facebook poised to launch its initial public offering of stock in the next few weeks, this is the kind of survey that was probably the last thing they wanted to hear, and possibly the same thing they most needed to hear. It turns out that large numbers of users are concerned about privacy issues, and a recent survey from IT security firm, Avira, illustrates just how deep the problem goes.
It's not just Facebook, either; Avira's survey went out to 100 million users over the entire planet, and revealed that 25 percent of respondents were concerned about Facebook's handling of their personal information, and were further concerned that it may be stolen or otherwise misused. Nineteen percent shared the sentiment with recent competitor, Google+, and just two percent were specifically worried about Twitter.
Perhaps more disturbing was that the same segment of respondents thought all social media was inherently dangerous, as 40 percent of respondents declared that they had no trust whatsoever for social media and that they "do not feel safe when using social media sites". Just 14 percent felt safe using any social media site.
There are potential sources of help, however, including SocialShield, a recent Avira acquisition that acts as a parental monitoring service on children and teenagers' use of social networks to help ensure they don't actively give away information that parents would rather they not. Also it's helpful against things like reputation risk monitoring, as well as cyber bullying, as it monitors for things like adults pretending to be kids and friends who may be dealing in things that may worry parents.
Certainly, social media has a lot of potential for disaster. The effects of an untoward social media page can last for years and have deep ramifications. Cyber bullying is a growing concern among young people, and with corporations actively using Facebook as a kind of initial background check--though there have been some legal challenges in doing so--social media in general may seem dangerous. But it's also done its share of good as well: it's brought down criminals, it's connected people in lifelong friendships and even marriages, and it's found people work in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Any powerful tool has the potential for misuse. That's just the kind of impact social media sites have. While caution is certainly called for--and the protection of personal information paramount--a safe social media experience can be had, and prove value.
Edited by Brooke Neuman