Poll: Most don’t find privacy trade-off of social media acceptable

A new poll released Thursday found more people are comfortable with office surveillance cameras than they are with a social media company using their information to serve up targeted ads. 

Despite the widespread adoption of social media, a majority of people, 51 percent, said they do not see it as an acceptable trade-off to get free access to a social media service in exchange for that company using their information to deliver targeted ads. 

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A Pew Research poll released Thursday asked participants about their comfort level in six different scenarios to test their willingness to give up some privacy in exchange for some service. 

The social media scenario was one of two in which a majority of people said the privacy trade-off would be unacceptable.

The other, which 55 percent found unacceptable, dealt with a “smart thermostat” in the home that could save energy but would also gather some information about when you are home and moving from room to room. 

People were most willing to allow their employer to install security cameras with facial recognition software, in a scenario in which some employee belongings had gone missing. The catch is that the employer would be able to use the camera to measure employee attendance and performance. 

A majority of people, 52 percent, were also willing to allow their doctor’s office to upload their patient records to a secure website if that meant they would have access to their records and would have an easier time making appointments. 

One of the starkest divides in the survey was between how young and old people answered the question about social media. While only 24 percent of people aged 50 and above found the social media trade-off acceptable, 40 percent of those under the age of 50 said it would be fine. 

Pew found, however, that the results could have been skewed by people who have don’t like social media to begin with. 

“In other words, there is a possibility that in answering this question, people’s general aversion to the whole idea of social media colored their views of the ‘bargain’ being presented in the scenario,” according to Pew. 

Earlier Pew polls have proved the widespread adoption of social media platforms like Facebook, which already make the bulk of their revenue from offering up targeted ads. 

About 72 percent of adults who use the Internet report using Facebook, 31 percent use Pinterest, 28 percent use Instagram, 25 use LinkedIn, and 23 percent use Twitter. 

The poll conducted early last year surveyed 461 people. It has a relatively high margin of error at plus or minus 5.8 percent. The survey also did focus groups with 80 people.