Social Media ID Probe

Question of the day: How willingly do social network users give up personal data?

This very question has been explored by Sophos UK. Sophos conducted testing in 2007 and 2009. The results may surprise you.

Given the efforts put into promoting and raising the awareness levels of Digital Citizenship, online safety and privacy, I would have anticipated a trend of improvement to be reflected in the results. However, this was not the case. I wonder if a big factor in this result stems from the continuing growth in the numbers of social network users. The Facebook blog currently reports over 300 million users. Just a few months ago the number was in the 250 million range. TwitDir, a Twitter directory currently shows 5.3 million users with an aggressive growth rate. Some estimates place the Twitter growth rate at 1382%. The reality is that this means there are high numbers of relatively inexperienced social networkers in the mix at any given point in time who may not be as savvy as more experienced online users.

Some highlights from the testing showed that:

  • 41 – 46% of users probed blindly accepted a friend request
  • one of the ‘blind friends’ was in fact a plastic duck
  • younger users tend to give out information more freely

Actual results of the probe are summarized in the chart below.


I would encourage you to read the report and recommendations for online safety at Sophos.com. From my point of view, the results indicate that there is considerable work to do in the area of Digital Citizenship and online safety.

~ Mark

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One thought on “Social Media ID Probe”

  1. I find this 41-46% of people accept a blind friend request very interesting.

    As a part of my dramaturgy class a few years ago my group did an experiement on this very thing. Our goal was to prove that people will commit to attend events online and then not actually show up. We created a facebook event – a drama game then started to ask random people to be our friends and come to the event. Not only did many people accept our friend request but several also commited to coming to our event – if memory serves only 1-2 people showed up. Our point proved, and yours too.

    I was recently going through my friends list and noticed that I’m still friends with all those randoms haha!

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