Study: Social Network Users Grow More Privacy Savvy, 54 Percent Feel ‘Addicted’

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Webroot, which provides Internet security services for consumers and businesses, has released its third annual report on cybercrime and user behavior on social networking sites. Between June 3 and 8, 2011, Webroot sponsored an online survey of Internet users in the US, UK and Australia.

The report is based on a total of 3,949 respondents, all of which spend at least one hour per day online – outside of work or school – and have a profile on a social network.

Webroot, albeit self-servingly, found that malware targeting social networking services is still running rampant, but also that social network users are increasingly making efforts to reduce their risk of exposure. Says Jacques Erasmus, Webroot threat expert:

“Over the last nine months, our threat intelligence network has detected more than 4,000 versions of the Koobface virus hit social network users. Cybercriminals continue to target social networks because they can quickly access a large pool of victims.

But our findings show that people are becoming aware of this, and they’re now savvier about safeguarding their devices and the personal information they share online.”

Year over year, Webroot found that the number of social networkers who experienced Koobface infections and other social network attacks in the United States climbed from 8 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2011. In the UK, the number of social network users who experienced attacks jumped from 6 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2011.

On a whole, social network users appear to become more careful when it comes to protecting their data and privacy, most likely because of the ongoing attention given by the press worldwide regarding the privacy implications of sharing personal details through social media.

Between 2009 and 2011, Webroot says, the number of US social network users who have never viewed or changed their privacy settings plummeted from 37 percent in 2009 to 8 percent in 2011. In the United Kingdom, the percentage dropped from 31 percent in 2009 to 9 percent in 2011.

In addition to measuring year-over-year trends, Webroot investigated new habits and behaviors surfacing among today’s increasingly connected social network users. According to the company, 54 percent of respondents feel ‘some level of addiction’ to their social network of choice.

I doubt that ‘addiction’ is the right term to use here – Webroot says 46 percent of respondents visit their favorite social network several times a day or constantly, but there’s a world of difference between ‘several times a day’ and ‘constantly’. Besides, where does addiction start, and when exactly does it become a problem?

To conclude: Webroot also asked respondents whether they think Mark Zuckerberg is responsible for keeping their personal information safe on Facebook. 13 percent of respondents actually think so, while 73 percent take personal responsibility for the security of their own information.

Related: Zuckerberg On Privacy, WikiLeaks And More [Video]