Report Suggests Young People May Abandon Social Media If Privacy Breaches Continue

With all of the revelations of data snooping and privacy violations at the hands of government agencies and clandestine hacker groups, a new report suggests young people are having buyer’s remorse regarding the amount of social media accounts they’ve poured their life details into.

In a report released this week (oddly) by USA Network, survey data shows that 55 percent of young people would eschew social media entirely “if they could start fresh.” Additionally, if major breaches of their privacy were to continue, 75 percent of young people said they were at least “somewhat likely” to deactivate their personal social media accounts, with 23 percent saying they were “highly likely” to do so.

Young Americans’ sense of privacy online has been so violated that most of them believe that it’s safer to store their personal data in a box than in the cloud. Indeed, the survey said that physical filing systems were actually listed as the “most trusted” personal data storage method for young people.

So, are we really just one WikiLeaks bombshell away from a mass exodus of young people from social media sites? I’d be pretty shocked if that were the case.

The disconnect between young people’s stated beliefs regarding privacy and how they actually seem to have responded to instances of their data being used is an interesting takeaway from this report. Other surveys have shown that the perceived usefulness of social media has, in fact, made young people indifferent to how companies end up using their data.

In a summary statement from a major Pew Research study on young people’s views of online privacy following the Snowden leaks, Pew said:

“Put it all together, and a picture emerges of young adults who are more willing than older Americans to let companies use their personal data for commercial purposes, in exchange for the social-networking functions they value, but are more skeptical about the government’s implicit security-for-privacy bargain.”

Young people’s views on privacy are complicated topics to nail down, but what this report does shed light on is just how important dealing with user privacy concerns is for tech companies — at least from a public relations standpoint. It’s apparent that some are paying close attention to the topic, but if other companies decide to ignore the issue and call young people’s bluff, this report suggests that it could be disastrous.