Misconceptions with Digital Privacy on Social Media

By Jocelyn Paez, Emily Sherbin & Earl Whittemore

"Social networking Web sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google Buzz, LinkedIn and Friendster have become established forums for keeping in contact with old acquaintances and meeting new ones, for sharing personal information, and for establishing mobile communication capabilities...While these Web sites are useful tools for exchanging information, there has been growing concern over breaches in privacy caused by these social networking services. Many users feel that their personal details are being circulated far more widely than they would like," (EPIC).

But are users actually aware of what information they are disclosing when doing seemingly benign activities on social media? We decided to investigate this question by asking a population of incoming freshmen at Michigan State University.

How aware are you about the impacts of the information you share on social media?

As Ed-Tech teachers, we felt confident we had a good understanding of what sorts of information we were sharing publicly. However, we were not as confident other demographic groups shared that same awareness. The graph below depicts active use of social media sites based on age groups. We are concerned that the frontrunner (16-24) group may be the least aware of what information is stored permanently.

"Not unsurprisingly, the younger generations are more active on social media with 16-24 year olds using on average 4.2 social media accounts, 11-15 year old using 3.2 accounts, 25-34 year olds using 3 accounts, 35-64 year olds using an average of 1.8 accounts and those aged over 65 using just 1 social media account during a month," (Social Media, 2015).