Book part:
Privacy in Social Networks After the Global Surveillance Disclosures

Author(s): Wittig, Kai


In May 2013, Edward Snowden disclosed U.S. federal government information to the media, highlighting global surveillance activities concerning operations conducted by the National Security Agency, in addition to other secret service operations regarding the monitoring of most parts of the Web, especially social networks. Privacy concerns on the Internet have thus been highly affected because of his actions. Investigating the consequences of this behavior as regards users of social networks is of primary interest. Do users care about their online privacy? Are they honest about the data they post? Do they believe their online data are safe? If not, what actions do they take to minimize the risks of privacy violations? Does a “pushback” phenomenon exist? To answer these questions, we conducted an empirical study between 22 July and 11 August 2014. The method used was an online questionnaire (in German) that was spread across German web-forums and social media networks. There were 304 people who participated in this study. Participants were grouped by sex, age, and educational background, and asked about their behavior in online social media networks and their subjective feelings toward online privacy. Most results of previous studies concerning self-revelation on social networks could be verified: for example, the differentiation between more and less intimate personal information. On the one hand, results demonstrate most users willingly share their real personal information. Furthermore, a strong correlation was found between the level of self-revelation on social media and age, as well as sex. On the other hands, educational background does not seem to affect the participant’s behavior concerning self-revelation. An awareness of the problem toward privacy violations does slightly correlate with age and education. The most common method to protect one’s online privacy is to limit the range of information spread to special groups (e.g., close friends). Only very few participants stated they are using encryption in their online communications. “Pushback” behavior in direct context with these global surveillance disclosures could not be documented. Users know about the risks but seem willing to ignore them when weighed against the benefits gained from using social media. This study therefore concludes that a need does exist to act on the growing awareness concerning privacy matters on the Internet, especially as it pertains to young people.

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Preferred Citation
Wittig, Kai: Privacy in Social Networks After the Global Surveillance Disclosures. In: Knautz, Kathrin;Baran, Katsiaryna S.: Facets of Facebook: Use and Users. Berlin: de Gruyter 2016, S. 146-171. DOI: 10.25969/mediarep/11951.
 author = {Wittig, Kai},
 title = {Privacy in Social Networks After the Global Surveillance Disclosures},
 year = 2016,
 doi = {10.25969/mediarep/11951},
 editor = {Knautz, Kathrin and Baran, Katsiaryna S.},
 address = {Berlin},
 booktitle = {Facets of Facebook: Use and Users},
 pages = {146--171},
 publisher = {de Gruyter},
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