Purpose – Facebook users are both producers and consumers (i.e. “prosumers”), in the sense that they produce the disclosures that allow for Facebook's business success and they consume services. The purpose of this paper is to examine how best to characterize the commercialized and compliant members. The authors question the Facebook assertion that members knowingly and willingly approve of personal and commercial transparency and argue, instead, that complicity is engineered. Design/methodology/approach – A survey of Facebook users was conducted between December 2010 and April 2011 at one private and four public universities. Respondents were questioned about: the level of their consumer activity on Facebook; their knowledge of Facebook advertiser data sharing practices and their attitude toward such; their use of sharing restrictions and the groups targeted; and their assessment of transparency benefits versus reputation and consumer risks. Findings – No evidence was found to support the Facebook account of happy prosumers. Members reported that they avoided advertisements as much as possible and opposed data sharing/selling practices. However, many respondents were found to be relatively uneducated and passive prosumers, and those expressing a high concern for privacy were no exception. Research limitations/implications – Due to the nonprobability sampling method, the results may lack generalizability. Practical implications – To avoid unwanted commercialization, users of social networking sites must become more aware of data mining and privacy protocols, demand more protections, or switch to more prosumer‐friendly platforms. Originality/value – The paper reports empirical findings on Facebook members' prosumption patterns and attitudes.
Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 11, 2012
Keywords: Social networking sites; Consumer behaviour; Privacy; Social capital; Facebook
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