Who will actually quit Facebook over privacy issues?

There is a lot of media coverage about the high-profile people who are quitting Facebook and some surveys claim that up to 60% of Facebook users may quit Facebook over the recent privacy issues.

I am very skeptical of surveys like this and so I decided to run my own survey on FamilyLink.com.

We have been the leading Facebook app for families for years and the #1 Facebook connect site for several months. Our audience consists mainly of Facebook users who also used the We’re Related application, so they tend to be family oriented, mostly female. I think the Sophos poll was skewed towards techie-types interested in security issues, so the 60% was very skewed.

I used identical wording as the Sophos poll question, and added one additional response, which is “I am not a Facebook user” since a small percentage of our users join FamilyLink.com without being a Facebook user.

Here are the results so far, from nearly 700 responses:

2% have already quit Facebook over privacy issue
8% say it is highly likely that they will
38% say “possibly”

[View complete survey results here]

We can cross tabulate this data by age, gender, county, and several other factors – so if you really want a full report on this, please email me: paul AT familylink.com

Regardless of the accuracy of polls like Sophos or our own, it is clear that Facebook has been paying attention to all the media coverage about the privacy issue, and has announced that tomorrow Facebook privacy will be “simplified.” (see MSNBC story)

11 Comments

  1. You forgot to ask who is going to use it more. : ) I had been ignoring Facebook for almost a year because I fell in love with Twitter but the recent attention on their privacy got me to go back in and actually look at what they had changed and what I can do with the platform. Because of that I am now using Facebook more than ever. ; ) Not the norm but I thought it would be interesting to add to the discussion my point of view. : )

  2. You know you’re doing something right when you have opposition. I agree with Mike in that I like what Facebook has done by allowing me to connect with the people I know in a different way. I thought it was really cool I can now see which of my friends like the same song I do on Pandora.

    Maybe I don’t fully understand the issue, but I’m not sure what all the hype is about. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever said or published on Facebook that I wouldn’t be ok with the public knowing about. Isn’t the privacy change so Facebook can share generic things like which songs you liked while listening to Pandora? Can’t anybody opt out if want? Sorry this is coming off as a rant but I’m just not quire sure all the negative press Facebook is receiving is warranted.

  3. I agree @Charles. I have never looked at Facebook as a personal wallet and I don’t put content on their that I wouldn’t want out on the web. What feels weird is that Facebook might keep as much of my stuff as they want when/if I asked them to delete my account from some of what I have heard. (I have no idea if that is actually true or if it is changing if it was true)

  4. @Mike that is interesting about deleting your account. I could see them wanting to keep some info for demographic statistics. I doubt they actually want to store my vacation photos 😉 Just a guess though.

    Robert Scoble did a blog post on this issue where he quoted an email from Mark Zuckerberg. It seemed to me that Facebook’s privacy policy changes were more misunderstood than anything.

    Here’s the blog post: http://scobleizer.com/2010/05/23/when-do-you-throw-a-ceos-privacy-under-the-bus/

  5. There’s another course of action missing in the survey. How many people are keeping their FB account, but removing their account info? I suspect people doing this also skew towards the more technical crowd.

  6. Good point @Joseph! I admit that I went through all my settings and set it so you couldn’t see a lot if you aren’t connected with me and removed some information that I felt a lot of people didn’t need.

  7. That is a good point. I did the same thing as @Mike leaving me with peace of mind that facebook could publish anything they wanted. I have control over what I put on there.

    I also heard a speech by a community police officer about how internet predators get a lot on their victims off facebook and she recommended people not put their personal contact info on facebook. She argued that your friends can contact you through other means and there isn’t any need for you to list your birthday, phone number, etc. on facebook.

  8. Mary

    I have always been a bit leery of Facebook, even though I still have one and think it would be futile to delete it because Facebook still keeps the info whether I keep it or not. It seems that you are constantly being urged to give more and more information about yourself and your family and friends — it’s a voracious info gatherer — and I wonder at times what in the world are they going to do with all of that information? It even has you list how you are related to people, and I wonder — who really needs to know that I’m x’s sister and y’s mom? I already know it. So does anyone I’d invite as a Facebook friend. So why does a stranger need to know all of this stuff?
    I understand why people think that well, ok, I’m not ashamed of anything that I am or have done, so why not share it with the public? But I think it’s actually pretty naive and doesn’t take into account that “the public” is not always benign. At the very least, your information glut is a smorgasbord to advertisers, but it also might give access — really amazingly accurate access — to pedophiles and other nasties out there who might want to know where your child goes to school or the exact date of your next vacation and the location of your empty, burglar-friendly house. And the permanence of this info on the web makes me uneasy. Even if everyone you’ve ever met is nice and decent, there may come a day (or a year) in the future when you meet someone whom you’d rather not know everything about you. I know DV victims whose abusers have found them through the Internet despite all of their efforts to escape, and the more info you have out there, the harder it is to get away.
    I was actually ok with Facebook until a couple of years ago when FB started making “friend suggestions” from my email address book. FB swore up and down that they didn’t do this sort of thing, but there was no other way they could have known about my “friends” except by raiding my address book. I found out later that my privacy was indeed invaded when I answered one of those silly quizzes like “what kind of dryer sheet are you?” and agreed to “allow access” before taking it. I didn’t know I was agreeing to open up my entire email account to them!
    In any case, I think that Facebook is an info hog, and that this has the potential to be really dangerous. I haven’t officially dropped out, but I have kind of abandoned my account. I think that this might be the reaction of most people who are uncomfortable with the privacy issues — not a dramatic drop out but a slow, steady dropping off of FB usage.

  9. Tonda

    @Mary – Couldn’t have said that better myself. I can only guess that the majority of FB users don’t understand the issue as well as you or I do… or worse yet, don’t care.

    Here’s another angle. Let’s think about what we’re using FB for. Really think about this from a user perspective. If you’re using it for business or advertising, FB is great. But if you’re using it only to stay in touch with close friends, what’s the point if you’re restricted in what you can say or show? Why limit yourself in a “social” platform? Does that really make sense?

    You see, FB makes it really hard for you to interact with others naturally… unless you want to spill everything to the world. And for those who don’t understand why the issue seems to be getting bigger lately (among techies anyway), the reason is this: it really wasn’t this way before. It was easier for us to talk to and share contact info with friends before, simply because everything defaulted to private.

    Then FB decided to make those decisions for us again, and again… and again. Trust is broken and the seed is planted. Like I said though, as a public forum it has it’s uses. As for the private little place for friends to hang out… it no longer exists.

    I’ve quit and I’m glad I did. Tired of a clueless FB making decisions for me. FB is not the be all and end all that people make it out to be. Does anyone remember e-mail and phone calls? A bit more effort yes… but c’mon, we can’t all be that petty, right?

  10. the numbers of Facebook users show that people are addicted to Facebook and will continue to be so at an alarming rate. Since everyone is connected there, it doesn’t make sense if you quit – since you will be “unsocial”.

  11. Haha, it’s funny because people like to find things to complain about but they aren’t going to really take much action to change it!

    Look, Facebook is huge and it’s not going anywhere, the only thing that will change these privacy issues is a federal ruling. The people that say they are going to boycott Facebook are the same people who said they were going to stop using it when they added the “News Feed” and didn’t.

    People forget that Facebook isn’t a right, it’s a privilege and you are signing up and giving your consent to have your privacy invaded to some degree. I’m not saying the privacy issues are right, but at the same time you aren’t required to join Facebook.

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