According to a recent survey about online sharing, it would seem that Facebook consistently changing its privacy settings, and confusing its users in the process, might have had a lasting effect on privacy concerns.
The Posterous study, conducted by Harris Interactive Survey, polled over 2,000 social network users, aged 18 and over, showed that Facebook seems to have people sharing less, which is obviously not the effect they were going for.
Seven in ten of the survey respondents believe that Facebook is all for public sharing, and with its most recent changes, particularly the one which allows you to ‘subscribe’ to other users, that isn’t surprising.
While Facebook is attempting to compete with Google+’s circle system gives users a more obvious and simple method of sharing content only with the people you want to – according to Posterous – the private sharing market is wide open for the taking.
61% of those surveyed said that they would share more if they had more control over exactly what it is they were sharing. Facebook is the main culprit of confusion, with 68% of Facebook users saying they don’t understand the social network’s privacy settings. And with how often they’re changed, can you really blame them?
Photos are the main concern
More than any other type of content, the main concern, understandably so, is the sharing of photos, and 59% of all photos shared online are shared privately.
Social networks have led to the inevitable blurring of the friendship line. A Twitter friend can translate into a Facebook friend, but do you want your Twitter friends seeing your Facebook family photos? According to the survey, 64% said no, despite the fact that almost half of them would describe online acquaintances whom they’ve never met as ‘friends’.
Let’s not also forget that if sharing certain photos on Facebook, or even accessing Facebook when you’ve taken a sick day, can get you fired, you probably want to make sure that no one but your close friends can see what you’re sharing.
According to the survey, if people want to be sure that what they’re sharing stays private – they’ll ditch all the social networks combined in favour of email. Twice as many of the respondents expressed a preference for email over social networks to share their photos, and 1 in 5 share their photos exclusively via email due to privacy concerns.
When it comes to men versus women, the former definitely have their guard down a little more. 26% of women wouldn’t share their photos publicly, compared to a measly 19% of men, while women aged 18 to 29 were the most concerned about their privacy, with 74% of their photos shared privately. The percentage when it comes to men of the same age drops to 52%.
The survey also revealed that only 14% of respondents have an active Google+ account, which surprisingly enough is 1% lower than those that have a MySpace account.
Posterous Spaces take centre stage
With the introduction of Posterous spaces, the San Francisco based blogging platform has repositioned itself in the privacy-aware camp of startups. When it first launched, Posterous’ main competitors were platforms like Tumblr and WordPress. With its new features, giving users complete control over what they share and with whom, they’re taking on quite a few more services, including Facebook.
The change seems to be working. Posterous users are sharing four times as many photos, and five times as many videos privately as they are publicly.
In that regard, Posterous has set itself up to be potentially compete for the attention of users who turn to email when faced with privacy concerns.
Sachin Agarwal, founder and CEO of Posterous said, “Since the launch of Posterous Spaces, we’ve already seen new user growth double, driven by private sharing activity, which is a clear statement from our users that the friends sharing model is broken and none of the incumbent social networks are meeting consumer needs to control who sees what they share.”
He added, “These findings mirror what our users have been telling us and as privacy options continue to confuse and elude, private online sharing is primed to be the battleground of the future for social networks.”
Posterous also put together a little infographic illustrating some of their findings, which you can see below: