More than half of Facebook users may quit site, poll finds

Privacy concerns have already pushed 16% of survey respondents to abandon Facebook

More than half of Facebook users are considering dumping the popular social networking site because of privacy concerns, according to the results a new Sophos poll.

Abingdon, U.K.-based Sophos said 16% of poll respondents said have already stopped using Facebook because of privacy issues. The results of the online poll of some 1,600 Facebook users, released this week, found that 30% are "highly likely" to quit Facebook due to privacy concerns, and another 30% said it was "possible" they would leave the site for the same reason.

Meanwhile, 12% of respondents said that won't leave he site and 12% said it's "not likely" that they'll quit Facebook.

"I was expecting a good proportion of people to be concerned about the privacy problems with Facebook based upon the typical users who read my [security] blog, but to see such a large percentage saying it was "highly likely" that they would quit or that they had already left was a surprise to me," said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant, today.

Cluley noted that IT workers are more concerned with Facebook privacy issues than non-techies.

"I think for people who work in the IT security field, it's becoming harder and harder to justify being on Facebook," he added. "The number of privacy problems are making more people realize that it may not be where they want to be. Of course, some people may simply reduce the amount of data that they publish on the site rather than quit. The average guy on the street, meanwhile, will probably need a bigger push to quit the site."

Cluley added that a lot of people have become addicted to posting updates and pictures about their lives on the site, and would find probably find it difficult quit Facebook cold turkey.

This growing unrest comes amid mounting ire that Facebook is moving to share user data with other Web sites. Users have also increasingly expressed frustration with the complexity of the site's privacy controls.

In an interview with Computerworld earlier this month, Ethan Beard, director of Facebook's developer network, defended the company's privacy policies. Beard contended that users love the site's new features, and theorized that the mounting criticism isn't coming from users.

Facebook, though, has started making moves that indicate it may be moving towards changing the privacy settings to assuage critics.

"We have heard from our users that our efforts to provide granular control have made things too complex," said Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook. "Of course we're working on responding to these concerns but we don't have anything further to announce. "

Cluley said Facebook needs to do an about-face when it comes to privacy.

"I think Facebook needs to fundamentally change its attitude towards privacy, putting the needs of its users first and foremost rather than its balance sheets," he added. "Users are not going to appreciate 'bait-and-switch' tactics where they believed they were putting information up on the site which would be kept private, only to find their privacy slowly being eroded."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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