Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Frequent users less wary of Facebook

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Frequent users less wary of Facebook
SEATTLE – Oct. 18, 2011 – The more you use Facebook, the less likely you are to be concerned about privacy invasion.

That’s the core finding of a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll telephone survey last week of more than 2,000 adults.

“I really don’t care if people know about the stuff I like,” says Danny Jackson, 46, of Maine, who uses Facebook several times a day to check in with friends and to play FrontierVille, a popular Facebook-based game.

Only 26 percent of respondents who use Facebook at least daily said they were “very concerned” about privacy, compared with 35 percent who use the social network at least once a week, and 39 percent who use Facebook less often.

Even so, Facebook’s next-generation services have put the popular social network, which claims 800 million users, in the privacy hot seat. The company has begun testing “Timeline,” a way to digitally map members’ entire online lives. It is also testing “Open Graph” applications that automatically share notices about websites visited and content accessed.

Civil rights groups, privacy advocates and several politicians have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Facebook’s tracking technologies.

Still, only 34 percent of poll respondents who use Facebook less than once a week were aware of the new features. Not surprisingly, 87 percent of those polled who use Facebook daily said they noticed the new features.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes says the company tracks members only with their permission and has done much to “offer people transparency, choice and control over how their data is shared.”

But some technologists worry about Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and others racing to develop businesses based on amassing vast amounts of data about what people do on their PCs and mobile devices.

“It’s kind of a gold rush mentality, and (tracking) data is becoming the holy grail,” says Craig Spiezle, executive director of the non-profit Online Trust Alliance.

Some avid Facebook users, such as Alex Martin, a student at Texas A&M University, are taking it upon themselves to preserve privacy. Martin closely monitors photos and comments posted about him by friends.

© Copyright 2011 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc., Byron Acohido

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