Social network usage has exploded in the recent years. While the younger demographic is thought to be less careful with sharing information to the public, a recent survey suggests otherwise.

Privacy and Security Younger users more protective of personal info, survey says

Social media use has exploded in the recent years. Facebook has grown past a billion users, while Twitter, Instagram and other networks have upwards of 200 million users each. These days, it’s not just the usual social network vying for users’ attentions, but also instant messaging platforms like LINE and WeChat, which also run photo and update sharing, as well as friend discovery on their platforms.

With rising usage, however, comes a worrisome trend, as social networks are seen to be exchanging user privacy for money from advertisers and marketers. With most social networking services being free, it is the user who then becomes the product. Advertisers are, after all, willing to pay top dollar to reach a targeted audience, both on desktop and mobile platforms.

Privacy concerns are therefore getting increased attention, and this is amplified by the recent spate of leaks that government agencies are seeking user data from service providers. At the very least, user privacy may be compromised when he or she puts up too much information in public view. It has been initially thought that younger users — teenagers, college students and the like — are less careful with protecting their online privacy. However, a recent survey commissioned by Slovak anti-virus firm ESET, the creators of NOD32, suggests that younger Internet users may actually be more cautious than older users.

According to the poll results, 26 percent of users aged 45 and above never made any changes or customizations to their social networking accounts’ privacy settings, compared with only 11 percent of users aged 18 to 44. What could be disturbing is that about 80 percent of surveyed users say they have been receiving suspicious messages online, potentially phishing or social engineering attacks.

Still, a good majority of the surveyed users admit that the responsibility for online safety would ultimately be the user’s (64%). A few believe that their ISPs should protect them from malware and hacking (17%), while some would put the responsibility upon the social networking company (12%).

With a population of just over 2,000, the survey may not be representative of the entire population of, say, Twitter or Facebook. It’s quite interesting to note, however, that at least for this subset of users, those who are supposedly more experienced are not as savvy when it comes to privacy.

Source: ESET, via Forbes / Image: Security, Shutterstock.com