But we have one question - does anyone really believe that 300 million of the now estimated 500 million Facebook users are
In total, 1,860 visitors to the Sophos website responded to "an online poll asking Facebook users if privacy concerns might make them consider quitting the service", according to the company's blog post. Of those, 272 answers were removed from respondents who said they were not Facebook users, and 254 said they had already left the site over privacy concerns.
How can we look at these numbers?
First, there are the basic numbers. As we reported earlier this week, Facebook experienced a 3% increase in visits last week, receiving nearly 9% of all U.S. visits. Not to mention, that oft-quoted figure of 400 million users has grown, though not officially announced yet, to 500 million.
We think that another informal survey from Forrester Research may shed some light on what is going on here.
According to Forrester analyst Augie Ray, it wasn't his survey's final results (with its way-too-small sample of 185 respondents) that were most interesting, but how who he asked affected the answers. In his poll, he asked "Have you changed your behaviors or settings in Facebook as a result of recent news about the site's privacy settings & breaches?"
At first, I invited followers on Twitter, and those early responses tended toward the concerned; the Twitter crowd demonstrated a higher percentage deleting their accounts or changing their privacy settings. But later I shared my poll with my Facebook friends, which include many people not "in the business" of marketing, technology, or social media, and as this group responded, I noted a significant jump in other responses, primarily, "I've made no changes whatsoever in how I use Facebook."
All of this is not to say that Facebook is not going through some serious issues over its privacy settings. Since we first reported on Quit Facebook Day - the site where people can pledge to delete their Facebook account on May 31 - the number of pledges has grown to nearly 13,000 - nearly triple what it was when we revisited the site early this week.
With all of this in mind, we think that 60% is an overblown statistic that is likely a result of the same fault found by Augie Ray when polling his online following - the answer changes and widely varies depending on who you ask. As the disclaimer on the Sophos blog post reads, "Please bear in mind that this poll is not scientific and is provided for information purposes only. Sophos makes no guarantees about the accuracy of the results other than that they reflect the choices of the users who participated."
This un-scientific survey is giving un-scientific results that are being tossed around as if they actually mean something. Instead of reading "60% of Facebook users" it should read "60% of visitors to IT security firm Sophos' website who use Facebook". Then, maybe, it would be presented in the correct context for us to understand what's being measured. Facebook's privacy flap - though a concern for the mainstream, too (as evidenced by a cover story on Time Magazine, among other things) - is primarily worrisome for the technically savvy.
There are not 300,000,000 Facebook users considering dumping the world's most popular social network.