Canadian Facebook users take cautious approach, poll shows

Most Canadian Facebook users describe themselves as cautious about their privacy and have adjusted their settings accordingly, according to a new poll conducted for ITBusiness.ca.

A little more than half of survey respondents selected “I’m cautious about my privacy and have changed my settings, and am very selective about what information I share.” The next most popular response was “I’m a little concerned about my privacy and have adjusted my privacy settings”, accounted for 25 per cent.

The poll was conducted on by Delvinia Data Collection behalf of ITBusiness.ca. It surveyed 1,002 active Facebook users amongst Delvinia’s AskingCanadians panel.  The respondents have used Facebook within the past two months and were composed of an even male-female split.

“Canadians tend to be more conservative in their willingness to share information, and there has been a lot of media hype around the subject,” says Adam Froman, CEO of Delvinia. “For those that are not users of social media sites like Facebook, all the media attention about Facebook has given them more reason why they should not share information, and for those who do use Facebook, the media hype has simply made them more aware of the mechanisms Facebook has put into place to control their own privacy settings.”

Related Story: Interview with Facebook’s new head of Canadian operations

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Facebook’s commitment to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to overhaul its privacy settings, privacy policy, and third-party application programming interface. The University of Ottawa-based law group lodged the original complaint that led to that investigation, and they have gone on the record to say that Facebook hasn’t done enough to meet the requirements laid out.

But much of the privacy concerns raised were around Facebook’s default privacy settings. Now it appears most Canadians change those defaults.

The results show cautious Canucks have recognized that its possible to enjoy privacy while still reaping the benefits of social networking, says Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.

“It’s a positive result and I’m very pleased,” she says. “It shows that the changes Facebook made earlier in the year has move a lot of users to change their privacy settings.”

A lot of negative media attention was focused around Facebook’s changes at the end of last year because they appeared to weaken privacy controls, Cavoukian says. But Facebook rebounded with another update in March that strengthened privacy settings.

“Given a significant amount of media attention, as there was on this issue, and Facebook’s positive response… that caught a lot of people’s attention,” she says.

Facebook isn’t surprised by the poll results, a spokesperson tells ITBusiness.ca in an e-mail response. Recent changes made to privacy settings were intended to make the settings more simple and all users were notified about the settings at the time.

“We know that people want to have control over what they share and with whom,” the spokesperson writes. “We are not surprised that people are selective about what they share.”

Just one in 10 survey respondents said they were not concerned about privacy and hadn’t changed their default settings. Another 9 per cent of Canadians said they were “a little” concerned about privacy, but didn’t know how to adjust their settings from the defaults.

Only 3.6 per cent chose the response “I don’t trust Facebook with my privacy. I’ve deleted my account, or refuse to start one because of this.”

More than eight out of 10 Canadians say they have made some sort of modification to their privacy settings to limit what others see on their Facebook profile.

That overall user caution is an excellent result, Cavoukian says.

“It shows that it is possible in this day and age to get people to listen about privacy issues and get them to be cautious about who they share their information with, as they should be,” she says. “They are thinking before they post.”

A poll of 1,002 respondents is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Brian Jackson is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+
More Articles