Men more likely than women to take risks on Facebook, Twitter

Men are more likely than women to accept friendship requests from strangers, announce their location, ignore privacy settings, leave their account searchable to all and avoid reading privacy policies on social networks, according to a summer survey of 1,649 men and women in the U.K. and the U.S.

The risky online behaviour can increase the risk of spammers and scammers using private data for targeted attacks, identity theft and other crimes, and increase the likelihood of being sent a link that leads to malware. All respondents have installed anti-virus programs on their computers and were likely to be more aware of computer security issues than the general population.

The survey showed that 64.2 percent of women always reject friendship requests from strangers on social networks while only 55.4 percent of men did so. About 24.5 percent of men leave their social network accounts searchable by strangers, compared with 16 percent of women and 25.6 percent of men share their location while 21.8 percent of women do so.

The data also showed U.S. men are slightly more likely to engage in risky online behaviour than their UK counterparts. The study, which divided social network users into age groups, also showed an increasing tendency toward caution with age.

Men expose themselves to risks more than women, especially when accepting friendship from unknown persons. On a positive note, the survey also showed that only about a quarter of users are willing to share their location on social networks, which makes location disclosure an important privacy concern for all users.

However, most social network applications, especially the mobile ones, are designed to share this information by default, which opens the door to embarrassing if not truly dangerous situations.

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestDigg thisShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

George Petre is a leading researcher in social media security. In 2008 he presented one of the first ever workshops on social media security at the MIT Spam Conference, and has since presented again at MIT and VB conferences. George holds degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science, and a master’s in Psychology applied in National Security. His work focuses on monitoring existing and emerging threat trends in social media and privacy issues. He also plays a lead role in the development of Safego, Bitdefender’s free social media security tool, currently available for Facebook and Twitter.