February 8, 2013

Data point: Seeking to go Private in Public, people see friends as potential privacy foes

Posted by: in North America

In an era when living publicly is becoming the default, people are coming up with creative ways of Going Private in Public, one of our 10 Trends for 2013: Rather than rejecting today’s ubiquitous social media and sharing tools outright, consumers are finding ways to carve out private spaces while reaping the benefits of a vibrant digital identity—gradually defining and managing a new notion of privacy. People are coming to realize that ultimate control of their online privacy is out of their hands, even if they diligently tweak privacy settings. It’s not just the Web powers-that-be like Facebook that can affect a public persona but also one’s tag-happy, share-happy social network.

A study we conducted last November in the U.S. and U.K. confirmed that people see their friends as potential privacy-invaders. (We surveyed 1,016 adults aged 18-plus, as well as 100 teens, using SONAR™, JWT’s proprietary online tool.) Close to half of adults feel that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep parts of their life private, since friends share everything online; it’s harder still for teens to maintain privacy. More than a third of Millennials said they’ve had their secrets accidentally shared via social networks. And teens and Millennials are well aware that they’re not in control of where photos will end up. (Not even Mark Zuckerberg is immune; the Facebook founder’s sister accidentally shared a private family photo in December.)

The issue is not whether online privacy is dead but rather how to enable people to control the digital information stream connected to their personal lives as needs and relationships evolve over time.

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