Social Networking: A Retrospective into the Trust Formation and Threats

Social Networking: A Retrospective into the Trust Formation and Threats

Vladlena Benson (Kingston Business School, Kingston University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7401-1.ch006
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As the social technology matured in recent years, so did the threat landscape of the online medium. Fears about breaches of privacy and personal information security seem to dominate the list of concerns of social media users described in literature. Popular press continually reports cases of inadvertent and malicious information disclosure and breaches, cyberbullying, and stalking. Yet, social networking sites proliferated into all areas of human activity. The factor causing this phenomenon lies in the trusted nature of networks and the sense of trustworthiness of this easy-to-use technology. The formation of trust into social technology has attracted much attention, and this chapter offers an overview of the trust predictors in social settings. It continues with a retrospective into the threat landscape and the use of personalisation by social networking services to counter some of these threats. Further research directions are discussed.
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I wrote a chapter on the role of personalisaton in Web 2.0 user protection half a decade ago. Five years in technology terms is a long time span. Much has change in the landscape of Web 2.0, and the social media group of internet applications has become more established, absorbing more and more internet tools which employ social technology features. Social Networking Services have gained a more defined distinction into professional and private categories, while Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Pinterest acquired the leading status of social networks. As we were conducting a study investigating purchase intention and risk propensity of social media users, trust and trustworthiness of social networks appeared to have a significant influence over user behaviour. This prompted me to take another look at the trust building methods, such as personalisation, employed currently on the Web 2.0 group of Internet applications, including social networking services.

The notion of trust spans from the social context to human computer interactions. Much research (e.g. Beudoin, 2008; Jiang, Jones & Javie, 2008) now recognises the importance of understanding trust and trust-building in online communication, transactions and systems. Online interactions involve various types of risks and entail the presence of trust between communicating parties as well as in the applications used for these interactions (Riegelsberger, Sasse & McCarthy, 2003). Social networking sites (SNS) provide a straightforward, user-friendly and convenient way to connect and share information with other users online. This explains the growing popularity of such SNS as Facebook, which counts more than 1.23 billion active users. Over 700 million people made logging into Facebook a daily routine and the amount of content shared through the site reached billions (including web links, stories, blogs posts, photos, etc.) each week (Facebook Statistics, 2013). Features for customising personal profile and privacy settings, peer based rating systems and a sense of a secure environment for sharing personal information and content made SNS immensely popular.

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