x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Facebook privacy fear 'more likely for Emiratis'

Some 79 per cent of Emiratis considered Facebook a 'privacy concern', compared to 56 per cent of those from UK and Europe. 

DUBAI // Emiratis are more likely to be concerned about the privacy risks of Facebook than expatriates, a study has claimed.

A survey of 275 Facebook and Twitter users was carried out and the results published last month in the Middle East Media Educator, an academic journal printed by the University of Wollongong in Dubai.

It found that four out five Emirati respondents considered Facebook a "privacy concern", compared with just over half of those from the UK and Europe.

And 71 per cent of Emiratis in the survey said the biggest concern was that their privacy would be compromised by information about them posted by others.

Just 56 per cent of those from the UK and Europe shared that concern.

Donelda McKechnie, one of the report authors and a professor of marketing at Hult Business School in Dubai, said the fears were due to the more conservative culture.

"If negative pictures or information about them was shared on Facebook it could result in negative cultural ramifications against them," said Ms McKechnie. "It could impede them culturally and socially.

"For people from western countries it's equally a concern but for different reasons. They may feel that it might affect their job prospects."

The biggest concern for European social-media users was invasion of privacy by strangers, with 63 per cent saying it was a potential problem compared with just 50 per cent of Emiratis.

Ms McKechnie said the survey was unique because it compared the attitudes of different nationalities living within the same country.

It was also reasonably demographically representative, she said, with Emiratis making up 7 per cent of respondents.

They were more likely than any other nationality to use Facebook to "make new friends", with 57 per cent of Emirati respondents saying that was how they used it, compared with just 33 per cent of Europeans and 16 per cent of those from North America.

Gladwin Menezes, a marketing graduate who helped to carry out the research for his thesis, said he felt there was a degree of ambivalence about social networking sites among those polled from the Middle east.

"In Saudi Arabia, social-networking sites helps young people socialise when normally it's restricted, particularly when it comes to women talking to me," Mr Menezes said.

"On the other hand, they risk being judged for using [these sites]. It's a double-edged sword."

mcroucher@thenational.ae