Why oversharing on social media is changing our views on privacy

New report by McCann, Truth About Privacy, finds social media oversharing, bullying and who we trust with our personal data are all impacting how consumers view privacy online

A new report into US consumer data sharing and social media attitudes has highlighted a growing trend towards being more selective and exclusive when it comes to sharing personal information online.

The new quantitative study, Truth About Privacy, from McCann Worldgroup’s consumer intelligence unit, McCann Truth Central, looked into the change in consumer behaviour around privacy of information over the past two years and noted a particular shift in attitudes around social media ‘oversharing’.

One of the biggest indicators of this is the ‘privacy backlash’ around what and how to communicate personal details online, along with the evolving nature of what is ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’ in the eyes of social media users.

For example, ‘selfies’, one of the buzzwords of 2013, were rated uncool by nearly half of the survey respondents under 34 years old, and 77 per cent of people at least 35 years of age on Instagram agreed. In addition, only 35 per cent of people on Foursquare believed frequently ‘checking in’ your location is cool.

RELATED: CES 2014: Time to examine rules on data collection and privacy, says US commerce secretary

Bullying was another trend investigated as part of the study and as changing the way people behave online. For example, youth in the survey explained their migration from Facebook to Snapchat as being partly attributed to greater privacy (and therefore less bullying).

“We found evidence of a new trend towards being more selective and exclusive when it comes to sharing, even among the teenage generation,” commented McCann Truth Central deputy director, Nadia Tuma.

“As one of our young people said, ‘the pendulum is swinging in the direction of more privacy’. This may explain why young people are moving from Facebook to Snapchat. It is becoming cooler to be a bit mysterious, like not being very searchable on Google.”

Given the recent Snowden revelations around unauthorised government access to personal data, it’s not surprising that the number one privacy fear for respondents, and one that has increased significantly since 2011, is of governments using their personal data against them in some way.

When it comes to the types of organisations consumer trust their personal data to, Google and Facebook were nominated the greatest threat to privacy. In contrast, banks remain the most trusted institutions when it comes to using sensitive personal information properly.

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As a result of the findings, McCann identified four behavioural ‘Bs’ defining accepted sharing and privacy practices on social media: Bullying, boring, boasting and begging.

Brands were also guilty of falling into these categories as well if they didn’t interact on social media channels in a manner considered appropriate by users. For instance, 66 per cent of people said a brand using their content on a social media site without their permission is uncool, while more than half said a brand calling you with an automated personalised message was uncool.

With social networks taking on a more dominant role in our lives, individuals and brands face myriad potential pitfalls, McCann global director, Laura Simpson, said.

“Our findings point to new rules for navigating a world where privacy and publicity collide. The challenge lies in maintaining a delicate balance between making yourself seem interesting without looking vain.”

The McCann study was based on quantitative research conducted in November with 1100 US consumers over 18 years of age, followed by five group discussions with US consumers aged between 16-60. It was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on 8 January.

Examples of McCann’s four ‘Bs’ of social media privacy

BORING:

  • Only 34 per cent of people think posting routine activities as status updates on Facebook is COOL
  • Sixty-four per cent think the less personal approach of frequently posting silly or funny articles on Facebook is COOL

BOASTING:

  • Only 35 per cent of think frequently 'checking in' your location on Foursquare is COOL
  • Nearly two-thirds said having a personal style blog that chronicles your daily outfits is UNCOOL

BEGGING:

  • Seventy-three per cent of people think adding people you don't know as LinkedIn connections is UNCOOL
  • Adding people you don't know as Facebook friends, meanwhile, was rated UNCOOL by 72 per cent of respondents
  • Sixty-three per cent of people think defriending people who are not your ‘real’ friends on Facebook is COOL

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