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Savvy youngsters lie online to protect their digital identities

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21st March 2013

Savvy youngsters lie online to protect their digital identities

"I don’t give out my details online, I make up fake ones” say 22% of savvy 8 to 17 year olds in response to concerns over who uses their data and how.

With businesses keen to track and market products at customers through social networking sites, and EU policy makers poised to take action over how information is used, Intersperience has taken a closer look at the under 18’s use of digital media.
 
Our ‘Digital Futures’ project, which studied 1,000 youngsters aged 8 -18, shows that Facebook is the place for business to find young people. Despite its sign-up age being 13 years old, three out of ten 8-9 year olds are on Facebook, rising to nine out of ten 16-17 year olds.
 
And, the study finds, online privacy is important to 61% of all those questioned. 33% of under 18’s are worried about websites that ask for information that’s not needed and 23% worry that this information will be shared with someone else. Under 18’s don’t want, or expect, their data to be tracked by businesses and they modify their behaviour and provide false information in order to protect themselves.
 
“I didn’t know that businesses use [Facebook]” and, if they do, “putting statuses, or pictures and people liking that, but nothing further… that’s probably as far as interaction [should] go” is a recurring sentiment amongst those surveyed.
 
The study shows an increasing trend towards giving false information to companies online. “I would rather be anonymous to people I don’t know” is the common response of those surveyed. With the young more likely to lie than the old, in comparison only 8% of 45 year olds and over would provide untruthful details, Intersperience conclude that the privacy issue is going to get worse.
 
And here in lies the conundrum.
 
What use are half-truths to companies who tap into the wealth of personal information on social networking sites to track behaviour and target products at users in real time? With Facebook and Google seeking commercial gain from access to user information a solution is needed (Recent discussion in the Guardian).


As the debate about the use of online identities remains unanswered the ‘grown-ups’ or businesses which will benefit most are those that embrace transparency and involve the consumer honestly in how their data is used. For some, like Intersperience’s client Iceland, it’s through the company’s own social space 'Ice-Chat'.
 
In the meantime those who reveal their personal insights through social media are choosing to protect themselves by lying. And young people are cottoning on to this fast.
Industry needs to act if they want to base their marketing, research and relationships with customers on more than half-truths. Expect some solutions from Intersperience’s next project, ‘the New Social’ which reports back in April. For more information about this new study please click here.

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