Report: privacy concerns and Web users

Faith Merino · November 12, 2010 · Short URL:

The Forrester report finds that younger Web users are less concerned about privacy than older users

As little as ten years ago, the concept of Internet privacy had a totally different connotation.  Web users understood that there were a few established guidelines to avoid having your identity stolen, or having your home broken into by thieves and rapscallions prowling the Web.  For one thing, you didn’t give anyone your full name (despite the fact that out of a global population of 6 billion, at least one billion of those people are named Sarah Wilson).  And you definitely didn’t give out your location or use your credit card on any website.  Times are a-changin’: a new study from Forrester Research has found that younger Web users are less concerned about privacy than older users.

According to the study, 30% of Internet users aged 18-29 are concerned about their privacy on social networking sites (like Facebook), compared to 50% of users aged 54-64.  What’s particularly interesting is that online privacy corresponds directly to age group, rising incrementally the older the user is.  For example, 30% of users aged 18-29 are worried about their privacy, compared to 33% of those aged 30-43, 39% of those aged 44-53, and 50% of those aged 54-64.  The only age group where this is not the case is that of users aged 65 and older (43% of whom say they are concerned about their privacy). 

Despite the differences between age groups, all respondents across the board reported being more concerned about their privacy this year than they were last year.  The most significant leap in respondents who say they are more concerned about their privacy now than they were in 2009 is among users aged 54-64—with 50% reporting feelings unease now compared to 32% in 2009.  The next biggest jump—oddly enough—is among users over the age of 65, 43% of whom said they were concerned about this privacy this year compared to 28% last year.

Not only are younger Web users less concerned about their privacy than older users, users aged 18-29 had virtually no increase in the number of respondents claiming to be concerned this year compared to last year.  While 30% of users aged 18-29 reported being worried about their privacy this year, that’s only an increase of one percentage point since 2009. Just as concerns over privacy correspond directly with age, so too does the gain in respondents who are more concerned this year than they were last year. 

The Forrester report comes amid the ever-steady flow of reports of privacy loopholes and leaks on Facebook, including two research papers that found that advertisers can easily access sensitive information about Facebook users by simply offering ads that appear to have no relevance to such information, but if clicked will tell the advertisers what they’re looking for (sexual orientation, religious affiliation, etc.). 

The Wall Street Journal also recently found that all of the top ten apps on Facebook have been leaking user information to third party advertisers, although there is some debate as to whether or not it was intentional. 

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