Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Personal Information Sharing Behavior of University Students Via Online Social Networks

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Personal Information Sharing Behavior of University Students Via Online Social Networks

Article excerpt


The use of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) among students and adolescents has been increasing day-by-day to meet, interact and keep in touch with one another. SNSs permit their users to create their personal profiles, in which they reveal a lot of their personal information i.e. real name or a pseudonym, photographs, birthday, hometown, religion, ethnicity, and personal interests (Dwyer, Hiltz, & Passerini, 2007; Tuunainen, Pitkänen, & Hovi, 2009). This information may be used for nefarious purposes by third parties and unsavory individuals which causes many privacy issues. However, little research has been conducted to determine the behavior of sharing personal information by university students via SNSs and Internet. Previous studies only focus on the students under 18 (teenagers) and does not fully understand how students share their personal identifiable information (PII) in online SNSs (Flinn, 2009a; Hinduja & Patchin, 2008; Lenhart, 2007). Therefore, it is needed to determine the personal information sharing behavior of university students via SNSs and Internet by identifying the types of personally identifiable information shared and the traits of students who share personally identifiable information.

The continuously increasing popularity of the World Wide Web (www) caused the rising number of types of services which are available through computer networks. People who use these services, created a new kind of virtual societies usually called online social networks, (Cheung, Chiu, & Lee, 2011; Howard, 2008; Krishnamurthy & Wills, 2009; Leskovec, Backstrom, Kumar, & Tomkins, 2008). They can also be named as web-based social networks (Golbeck & Hendler, 2006), computer-supported social networks (Wellman et al., 1996) or virtual communities (Castells, 2001). Online Social Network Sites (SNSs) are "web sites that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site" (Boyd & Ellison, 2007, p. 211).

Users of SNSs share a plenty of their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on online SNSs, either consciously or un-consciously (Hinduja & Patchin, 2008). PII is:

Any information about an individual maintained by an agency, including (1) any information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual^ identity, such as name, social security number, date and place of birth, mother's maiden name, or biometric records; and (2) any other information that is linked or linkable to an individual, such as medical, educational, financial, and employment information (Koontz, 2008, p. 28).

There are extensive literature discussing the history, developments and the use of online Social Networking Sites (SNSs) by students and adolescents. SNS applications are growing; campus administrators are exploring ways to use SNSs; and faculty is experimenting with SNS tools to support learning. At the same time, students continue to seamlessly adopt and adapt these services in their lives. It is essential that higher education understand SNS practices of students because these sites are fundamentally changing the social fabric of the university (Ellison, 2008). However, there is a dearth of literature describing the students' current practices to share their personal information via SNSs and Internet.

Many studies exist about information and knowledge sharing behaviors and practices of students; however, few focus on personal information sharing behavior of university students. Therefore, the undertaken study describes the current practices and behavior of university students to share their personal information through SNSs. Despite an increase interest in SNSs and their usage, it is surprising that little empirical researches had actually been conducted to determine the personal information sharing practices of university students through SNSs, especially from the perspective of Pakistani origin. …

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