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Fear of Data Sharing Rose Significantly in Last Two Years

McCann's 'Truth About Privacy' Study Also Finds Concerns About Bullying Are Shifting Social Media Behavior Among Youth

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. consumer attitudes and behavior related both to data sharing and social media oversharing have shifted significantly just within the last two years, according to a newly released "Truth About Privacy" study conducted by McCann Worldgroup. This "pendulum swing" is occurring across the board generationally, but is most pronounced among teens, whose "migration" across social media channels reflects growing concerns about bullying in addition to evolving opinions about what's cool or not.

The new quantitative study by McCann Truth Central, McCann Worldgroup's consumer intelligence unit, follows up on a similar report the agency conducted in 2011.  The latest wave of quantitative research was conducted in November 2013 with 1,100 U.S. consumers (aged 18+), and supplemented qualitatively with five group discussions with U.S. consumers aged 16-60 years old.

McCann Truth Central's latest wave of research found the following striking changes over the last two years:

  • The #1 privacy fear that increased significantly since 2011 is that the government will use people's personal data against them in some way.
  • Companies considered to be the greatest threat and that are the least trusted with data are the Silicon Valley companies, such as Google and Facebook.
  • What did not change, however, is that banks are still the most trusted institution when it comes to using sensitive personal information properly.

In a surprising twist, this latest study has also uncovered new concerns, a kind of "privacy backlash," that has much more to do with a new consumer etiquette around what and how to share online.  "Selfie," for example, may be 2013's dictionary word of the year, but just under half of American under 34 say selfies are not cool. Similarly, reflecting that this is not just a young generational trend, 77% of people over the age of 35 consider posting frequent selfies on Instagram to be "uncool."

"We found evidence of a new trend towards being more selective and exclusive when it comes to sharing, even among the teenage generation," said Nadia Tuma, Deputy Director, McCann Truth Central. "As one of our young people said, 'the pendulum is swinging in the direction of more privacy.' This may explain why young people are moving from Facebook to Snapchat. It is becoming cooler to be a bit mysterious, like not being very searchable on Google."

"With social networks taking on a more dominant role in our lives, we face a myriad of potential social pitfalls," said Laura Simpson, Global Director, McCann Truth Central.  "Our findings point to new rules for navigating a world where privacy and publicity collide. The challenge lies in maintaining a delicate balance between making yourself seem interesting without looking vain."

Concerns about privacy, including bullying as a related aspect, are having a marked effect on youth migration patterns with regard to social media. Given the permanence of texts, tweets and status updates, bullying is changing the way people behave online. For example, youth in the survey explained their migration from Facebook to Snapchat as being partly attributed to greater privacy (and therefore less bullying).

But bullying is only one of what might be called "The 4 B's" that are defining currently accepted sharing and privacy practices with regard to social media. In addition to Bullying, these include avoiding Boring, Boasting and Begging behaviors as well.


  • Only 34% of people think posting routine activities as status updates on Facebook is COOL
  • On the other hand, 64% of people think the less personal approach of frequently posting silly or funny articles on Facebook is COOL


  • Only 35% of people think frequently "checking in" your location on Foursquare is COOL
  • 63% of people think having a personal style blog that chronicles your daily outfits is UNCOOL


  • 73% of people think adding people you don't know as LinkedIn connections is UNCOOL
  • 72% of people think adding people you don't know as Facebook friends is UNCOOL
  • 63% of people think defriending people who are not your "real" friends on Facebook is COOL

Brands can also fall afoul to these new rules. As the world of marketing continues to embrace applications related to data and social media, these new McCann Truth Central findings about the required balance between privacy and publicity extend to how American consumers view brand marketing behavior as well. Given these new rules, brands must be careful not to over-step the mark, as some of their actions could be considered "bullying" by some consumers:

  • 66% of people think a brand using your content on their social media site without your permission is UNCOOL
  • 57% of people think a brand calling you with an automated personalized message is UNCOOL

About McCann Truth Central
McCann Truth Central is McCann Worldgroup's global intelligence unit dedicated to discovering the truths that illuminate the world and will help brands make their mark on it.  With representation in over 100 countries around the world, the team has conducted over 12 studies with over 20,000 consumers. Recent global studies include "The Truth About Affluence," "The Truth About Wellness," and "The Truth About Connected You." For more about Truth Central please visit: http://truthcentral.mccann.com/truth-studies/

Methodology for The Truth About Privacy Study
An online quantitative study conducted in the U.S.-only surveyed a 1,100 nationally representative sample of adult consumers 18+. Qualitative research included five group discussions with U.S. consumers aged 16-60 years old.

About McCann Worldgroup
McCann Worldgroup, part of Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG), is a leading global marketing company with 23,000 employees in more than 120 countries, comprising McCann Erickson (advertising), MRM (digital marketing /relationship management), Momentum (event marketing/promotion), McCann Health (professional/dtc communications), CRAFT (global adaptation and production), UM (media management), Weber Shandwick (public relations), and FutureBrand (consulting/design).

SOURCE McCann Worldgroup

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