Are privacy concerns a turn-off? Engagement and privacy in social networks

Jessica Staddon
Larkin Brown
Aaron Sedley
Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS), ACM(2012) (to appear)
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We describe the survey results from a representative sample of 1,075 U.S. social network users who use Facebook as their primary network. Our results show a strong association between low engagement and privacy concern. Specifically, users who report concerns around sharing control, comprehension of sharing practices or general Facebook privacy concern, also report consistently less time spent as well as less (self-reported) posting, commenting and “Like”ing of content. The limited evidence of other significant differences between engaged users and others suggests that privacy-related concerns may be an important gate to engagement. Indeed, privacy concern and network size are the only malleable attributes that we find to have significant association with engagement. We manually categorize the privacy concerns finding that many are nonspecific and not associated with negative personal experiences. Finally, we identify some education and utility issues associated with low social network activity, suggesting avenues for increasing engagement amongst current users.