Report: Privacy worries many Facebook, Google users

People also fret about getting malware when using services from the companies, according to a Gallup/USA Today poll

A considerable number of Facebook and Google users worry about privacy and malware when using the social networking site and search engine, according to a survey from Gallup Poll and USA Today.

Almost 70 per cent of Facebook users and 52 per cent of Google users in the U.S. said they are "somewhat" or "very" concerned about privacy when using Facebook.com and Google's search engine, USA Today reported on Wednesday. Getting infected with malware worries 65 per cent of Facebook users and 54 per cent of Google users, the survey found.

However, these concerns don't seem to be driving people away from either site.

Facebook's U.S. unique visitors reached 153.9 million in December, up 38 per cent year-on-year, while time spent on the site and total page views grew 79 per cent and 71 per cent, according to comScore.

Meanwhile, Google remains the dominant search provider in the U.S., fielding 66.6 per cent of all queries in December, while Yahoo came in second with 16 per cent and Microsoft's Bing third with 12 per cent, according to comScore.

Still, if many of their users are worried specifically about privacy, Google and Facebook should support efforts to get the U.S. government to implement and enforce a "do not track" legislation and mechanism, Consumer Watchdog said in a statement in reaction to the survey.

"A poll by Consumer Watchdog last summer found that 90 per cent of Americans want legislation to protect their online privacy and 80 per cent support a Do Not Track mechanism. Another 86 per cent want a single-click button on their browsers that makes them anonymous when they search online," reads the statement.

The Gallup Poll/USA Today survey comes on the heels of recent instances in which Facebook's CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has been harassed via the social networking site by an alleged stalker and by malicious hackers.

In late January, hackers broke into his Facebook fan page and posted a message that read in part: "Let the hacking begin: If Facebook needs money, instead of going to the banks, why doesn't Facebook let its users invest in Facebook in a social way?"

This week, Facebook confirmed that Zuckerberg obtained a restraining order against a man who had been contacting him via Facebook, as well as showing up at his house and office, making requests and displaying behavior that a court deemed threatening.

Neither Google nor Facebook immediately responded to requests for comment.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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