Facebook may be scary, but we love it anyway: research

People are well aware of the risks of social networks, but they aren't enough to keep them away

As a research scientist for Barracuda networks, Daniel Peck has spent much of his time in the last year looking at activity on social networks and analyzing the common tactics used to scam, phish and otherwise trick people into clicking on bad links. A break down of the malicious activity on social networks can be found in By the numbers: How dangerous are Facebook, Twitter, search results (really)?

As part of his research, he surveyed users in 21 countries and received thousands of responses on social-network use and perceptions. From that data, Peck found people are well aware of the risks of social networks, but that knowledge certainly isn't enough to keep them away. Surprisingly, 92 per cent of respondents to his poll said they were concerned about social-network security, and 40 per cent even went as far as to say they felt "unsafe" on Facebook. Yet almost all, 92.9 per cent, were using Facebook, regardless of their concern. Twitter was almost as popular, with 74.8 per cent respondents admitting to using Twitter.

"Most users realize there is a problem, but it's not enough that they want to stop using the services by any means," said Peck.

[See our guide to Social media risks: The basics]

And while security and privacy may be top concerns, they weigh almost equally as finding a network that is user friendly. Among respondents, 87 per cent and 91 per cent said "ease of use" and "having friends who use it" are both major influencers of why they choose to use certain social networks.

Respondents were worried about privacy as well, with 51 per cent noting they were "unhappy" with Facebook's privacy controls. Peck noted you often see complaining about Facebook privacy whenever there is a site redesign, but the unrest is always short-lived.

"It seems to be a tempest in a teacup for about two days and then everybody just sort of forgets about it and goes on using the site," said Peck.

Respondents also said work and Facebook are not compatible, with 73 per cent admitting they believe employees share too much information online. Another 86 per cent said employee behavior on social networks can endanger company security.

[Also see 5 more dirty tricks: Social engineers' latest pick-up lines and 5 more Facebook, Twitter scams to avoid]

But those concerns don't line up with the kind of on-the-job social network access employers are giving to staff. Peck found just 31 per cent of workplaces block Facebook from employees. Peck said 25 per cent blocked Twitter and only 20 per cent block Linked In.

"They realize things are not as secure as they should be and there are some definite privacy issues that need to be addressed, but they're pretty much OK with it."

Tags internetFacebooksocial networkingInternet-based applications and services

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