Social Media Privacy in Canada 2020 [Report]

A Canada-wide survey on social media users’ privacy practices and attitudes towards social media data use by third parties.

As the second wave of coronavirus continues to surge in Canada, more people are turning to social media to stay connected. This increased reliance on social media has raised renewed privacy-related questions and concerns about digital trace data users leave behind and how such data is being used and by whom.

A new report, “Social Media Privacy in Canada 2020,” released today by the Social Media Lab at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, provides a detail examination of practices behind and attitudes towards social media data use by third parties from the perspective of social media users. The report is authored by the Social Media Lab’s co-directors Anatoliy Gruzd and Philip Mai. It is based on a census-balanced online survey of 1,500 online Canadian adults (18+) conducted between April 9–17, 2020.

The report includes new data on how comfortable Canadians are with different third-party entities, such as marketers, journalists, political parties, accessing their publicly available social media data. According to the report, the majority of Canadians (56%) were uncomfortable with marketers and political parties (52%) accessing information about them or posted by them publicly on social media. In contrast, respondents were least uncomfortable (36%) with academic researchers accessing their publicly available social media data, followed by current (40%) and potential (42%) employers.

While it is expected that academic research would hold a relatively high level of trust in society,” said Gruzd, “a relatively low discomfort level towards employers’ accessing information from social media suggests that at least some participants might have felt that public profiles on platforms like LinkedIn help  improve career prospects.

In addition, the report also shows that 22% of social media users have never checked or changed the privacy settings of their accounts, putting them at a higher risk of becoming a victim of data breach or identity theft. But what is more concerning is the fact that the percentage of users who have never checked or changed the privacy settings jumps to 33% among older adults (aged 55+).

This finding suggests that social media platforms still have a lot of work to do when it come to educating their users about privacy settings on their platforms, and that older adults might benefit most from targeted information literacy programs” said Mai.

Other Key Findings:

1. The majority of users on messaging apps (74%), Snapchat (69%), Facebook (67%), and Instagram (57%), have accounts that are set as private.

2. In contrast, on LinkedIn and Reddit, there are more users who set their accounts as public (50% and 47% respectively) than those who set their accounts as private.

3. Pinterest and YouTube have the highest percentage (14%) of users who are unsure about their account’s privacy setting.

4. In comparison to the lab’s 2017 data, the percentage of Facebook and Snapchat users who set their accounts to private has dropped by 9% and 8% respectively.

5. The majority of social media users have non-anonymous accounts on 9 out of 10 most popular social media platforms in Canada (except Reddit).

The report’s authors are available for media interviews to discuss the findings and implications from this new report.

About the Ryerson Social Media Lab

The Social Media Lab is an interdisciplinary research laboratory at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The lab studies how social media is changing the way people and organizations communicate, share information, conduct business and form communities online, and how these changes impact society.

For press inquiries, please contact: 
Philip Mai
Co-director |  Business & Communications
[email protected]