Empirical Study of Privacy Issues among Social Networking Sites

AuthorJoanne Kuzma
PositionUniversity of Worcester, UK
Journal of International Commercial Law and Technology
Vol. 6, Issue 2 (2011)
Empirical Study of Privacy Issues among Social Networking Sites
Joanne Kuzma
University of Worcester, UK
Abstract: Social media networks are increasing their types of services and the numbers of
users are rapidly growing. However, online consumers have expr essed concerns about their
personal privacy protection and recent news articles have shown many privacy breaches and
unannounced changes to privacy policies. These event s could ad versely affect data protection and
compromise user trust. Thus it is vital that social sites co ntain explicit privacy policies stating a
comprehensive list of p rotection methods. This study analyzes 60 worldwide social sites and finds
that even i f sites contain a privacy policy, the site pages may also possess technical elements that
could be used to serendipitously collect personal information. The results show specific technical
collection methods most common within several social network cate gories. Methods for improving
online privacy practices are suggested.
1. Introduction
With t he increase in global Internet sites, online social networks (OSNs) are gaining increased importance to
many people around the world for both work and leisure ( Preibusch, et al, 2007). However, as these sites grow in
popularity, they face a variety of design and legal challenges, especially factors related to pr ivacy protection and
misuse of user data. Studies have shown that online consumers are concerned about how OSNs protect t heir
personal information, so it makes sense for site owners to provide privacy policies indicating various methods
the firm uses to protect personal data and provide consumer protection. Because sites have not always been
proactive in providing strong protection, industry groups have created voluntary protectio n standards and some
governments have enacted legislation protection.
This research analyzes the level of privacy protection a mong 60 major OSNs throughout the world. It aims to
answer the following research questions:
Are there common privacy factors that are being neglected by OSNs?
Is there any relationship between sites that cater to specific geographic markets in dealing with
privacy issues?
Do some categories of OSNs (based on geography) have more privacy criter ia problems than
The study starts with a literatur e review of the market for OSNs and how online consu mers view privacy and
trust. It also reviews types of p rivacy factors, legal and industry standards and co ncludes with prior studies of
online privacy p rotection. Next, the research methodology is covered, follo wed by an explanation of the survey
results. Finally, implications for the findings are highlighted, along with suggestions for OSN site owners to
consider when strengthening their policies.

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