Social media plagued by privacy problems, say researchers

May 21, 2013

The privacy management of 16 popular social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter, is "seriously deficient," according to a study being published in the June issue of Computer magazine.

Researchers from UK-based Security Lancaster, an Academic Centre of Excellence in Research at Lancaster University, found a disconnect between privacy statements and the site's actual privacy controls.

"Although continue to attract millions of diverse users worldwide, they remain plagued by privacy compromises that breed user dissatisfaction and lack of trust," said co-author Awais Rashid, a Lancaster University professor and director of Security Lancaster.

"Our analysis reveals an overall lack of traceability and transparency."

Performed between January and May 2011, the study found that two-thirds of the principles outlined in the social networking sites' privacy policies were not reflected in their privacy controls. Besides Facebook and , the sites surveyed included LinkedIn, MySpace, and Badoo.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The researchers created four test accounts on each of the sites–two for adults and two for 13-17 year olds, linking each profile. They explored the differences between each site's policy statement on privacy and the privacy controls available to the user, attempting to establish whether it was possible to create a traceable relationship between the two.

The researchers' analysis revealed that none of the sites:

  • Let the user to choose whether the social could gather information about them
  • Allowed the user to prevent information being shared with third parties
  • Provided traceable details on which items of data were shared and with which third parties.

In addition, information on removing personal information was also inconsistent, with one site – PerfSpot – omitting any information on data removal while 's deletion link was accessible only through its privacy policy. There were also inconsistencies on everything from registering as a user to changing personal information and sharing information with other users.

The researchers conclude that there is a "significant disconnect between policy statements and ," which stems from the business models of social networking.

"Social networking users and their personal information are the products," said co-author Pauline Anthonysamy, a Lancaster University PhD student. "If everything were private, the site would have no data on which to capitalise."

The article, "Social Networking Privacy: Understanding the Disconnect from Policy to Controls, by Anthonysamy, Rashid, and Phil Greenwood, will be available in the June issue of Computer, which covers all aspects of computer science. For more than 40 years, developers, researchers, and managers have relied on Computer for timely, peer-reviewed information about research, trends, best practices, and changes in the profession.

Explore further: Fine tuning your campaign: Scientists conduct research into crowdfunding

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Spain: Google News vanishes amid 'Google Tax' spat

Dec 16, 2014

Google on Tuesday followed through with a pledge to shut down Google News in Spain in reaction to a Spanish law requiring news publishers to receive payment for content even if they are willing to give it away.

Brazil: Google fined in Petrobras probe

Dec 15, 2014

A Brazilian court says it has fined Google around $200,000 for refusing to intercept emails needed in a corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Microsoft builds support over Ireland email case

Dec 15, 2014

Microsoft said Monday it had secured broad support from a coalition of influential technology and media firms as it seeks to challenge a US ruling ordering it to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BSD
1 / 5 (3) May 21, 2013
"The privacy management of 16 popular social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter, is "seriously deficient,"

Which is why I refuse to open accounts with any of them. It's not about your privacy, it's about their profit margins.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.