May 29, 2010 at 9:36 am #101703
Reputation Management and Social Media: How people monitor their identity and search for others online
May 26, 2010
Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist
Aaron Smith, Research Specialist
Online reputation-monitoring has increased – 57% of adult internet users now use search engines to find information about themselves online, up from 47% in 2006;
Young adults actively manage what they share online –71% of social networking users ages 18-29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile
WASHINGTON – More than half (57%) of adult internet users say they have used a search engine to look up their name and see what information was available about them online, up from 47% who did so in 2006. Young adults, far from being indifferent about their digital footprints, are the most active online reputation managers in several dimensions. For example, more than two-thirds (71%) of social networking users ages 18-29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online.
These findings form the centerpiece of a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that looks at reputation and online identity management in the age of social media. The report is based on a telephone survey conducted in August and September of 2009 of 2,253 adults, ages 18 and older, including 560 cell phone interviews.
Reputation management has now become a defining feature of online life for many internet users, especially the young. While some internet users are careful to project themselves online in a way that suits specific audiences, other internet users embrace an open approach to sharing information about themselves and do not take steps to restrict what they share.
“Search engines and social media sites now play a central role in building one’s identity online,” said Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist at the Internet & American Life Project and lead author of the report, “Many users are learning and refining their approach as they go–changing privacy settings on profiles, customizing who can see certain updates and deleting unwanted information about them that appears online.”
As internet users increasingly post personal information on social networking sites and other virtual spaces, activities tied to reputation monitoring have taken on increased relevance:
* Monitoring the digital footprints of others has become more common: 38% of internet users have searched online for information about their friends, up from 26% in 2006.
* People are more likely to be found online: 40% of internet users say they have been contacted by someone from their past who found them online, up from 20% who reported the same in 2006.
* Social networking users are especially attuned to the intricacies of online reputation management: The size of the adult social networking population has more than doubled since 2006, and 65% of these profile owners have changed the privacy settings for their profile to restrict what they share with others online.
When compared with older users, young adults are more likely to restrict what they share and whom they share it with. Those ages 18-29 are more likely than older adults to say:
* They take steps to limit the amount of personal information available about them online – 44% of young adult internet users say this, compared with 33% of internet users ages 30-49, 25% of those ages 50-64 and 20% of those ages 65 and older.
* They change privacy settings – 71% of social networking users ages 18-29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online. By comparison, just 55% of SNS users ages 50-64 have changed their privacy settings.
* They delete unwanted comments – 47% social networking users ages 18-29 have deleted comments that others have made on their profile, compared with just 29% of those ages 30-49 and 26% of those ages 50-64.
* They remove their name from photos – 41% of social networking users ages 18-29 say they have removed their name from photos that were tagged to identify them, compared with just 24% of SNS users ages 30-49 and only 18% of those ages 50-64.
“Contrary to the popular perception that younger users embrace a laissez-faire attitude about their online reputations, young adults are often more vigilant than older adults when it comes to managing their online identities,” said Madden.
This report is based on the findings of a daily tracking survey on Americans’ use of the internet. The results in this report are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between August 18 and September 14, 2009, among a total sample of 2,253 adults, age 18 and older including 560 cell phone interviews. Interviews were conducted in both English (n=2,179) and Spanish (n=74). For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. For results based on internet users (n=1,698), the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting telephone surveys may introduce some error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.
May 29, 2010 at 9:43 am #101711
GMSV Blog commentary (which led me to the actual PEW report)
If you’re not worried, you’re not Googling
The word Facebook appears only a few times in the text of the new Pew Internet report on “reputation management,” but it’s screamed from between the lines.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, is a follow-up to a 2007 report on Internet users’ “digital footprints.” Between the two studies, Facebook membership went from 12 million to 300 million. It’s now at 500 million. There’s a lot more reputation out there to manage.
Who attempts to manage it? Says the report: “Those who know more, worry more. … The more often a user searches for information about others, the more likely she is to limit access to her own personal information.”
Internet users ages 18-29 are more likely than older adults to realize what sort of personal information is out there: They’re the most active searchers of information about themselves and others. They’re also the least trusting of social networks and the most likely to limit the information about themselves available online, by changing privacy settings, untagging photos, deleting unwanted comments.
One statistic that was not broken down by age or tendency to “curate content”: “Fully 50% of Internet users agree with the following statement: ‘It bothers me that people think it’s normal to search for information about others online.’” I’d bet those that are more accepting of personal searching are also those that closely guard their own information.
But though in many ways the 18-to-29 set is the canniest controller of online presence, they’re a lot more lax about one piece of information: birthdate. (Which is required by Facebook, and which many Facebook users leave public.) Fifty-nine percent of social network users in that age group say that their birthdate is available online for others to see.
It may not affect reputation, but birthdate is a frequent entry point for identity thieves. The Pew report cites studies showing that “the vast majority of Americans (87%) can be identified with only three pieces of information: gender, ZIP code and date of birth” and that “the acquisition of a birthdate, particularly when combined with location information for younger users, can be used to successfully predict Social Security numbers.”
Go ahead and Google. Searching for personal information is a neglected professional tool, MIT digital-business fellow Michael Schrage argues in a guest blog for the Harvard Business Review. “I always Google people that I am meeting for the first time,” he says, and adds, “Almost always, the person appreciates that I … made the effort.”
So why, he asks, do people tell him they rarely search for information about clients, colleagues, bosses? Why do his students not Google him? He goes so far as to label non-searchers “lazily disrespectful.”
The post’s commenters point out what Schrage has missed (and the Pew report confirms): Googling people is seen as somewhat creepy and voyeuristic. Maybe his students aren’t lazy or disrespectful, but discreet. Rarely, outside of Jim Carrey movies, does one introduce himself to a potential employer with: “Hey, Googled you last night! That was some trip to Cancun!”
May 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm #101709
I’ve become seriously concerned with Facebook’s click tracking. Hopefully it never becomes self aware.
May 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm #101707
We shall see! I am hoping that Mark Zuckerberg has perhaps learned a lesson from, his apparent attempt to make more money, by dramatically modifying the privacy end of facebook and all the negative feedback that he gathered from almost all sides.
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