Trust in Social Network Services: An empirical study of LinkedIn and Facebook
The overall aim of this research project is to study Social Network Services (SNSs) and to further research on why and how different groups of people employ them, with special attention to users’ experiences and the issue of trust in sharing digital information. As part of this research, the project focuses on users’ evaluation of risk, trustworthiness, and privacy. The project also researches the process of adoption of SNSs. One of the major challenges when studying SNSs is that they often address different groups of people and support various kinds of social ties - the whys, whats, and hows of usage may differ according to the SNSs and their users that are studied. Moreover, the issue of trust is relevant to this research, as different SNSs may support various aspects of people’s social practices. There is still much uncovered territory, and with the continuous growth and usage of SNSs, further research is needed for a more thorough understanding of these services. The research project is based on empirical studies of two SNSs that attract users world-wide but that also address different audiences and have different intentions related to use: LinkedIn. com and Facebook.com. LinkedIn is a SNS that primarily addresses adults in a professional capacity while Facebook generally addresses both youth and adults in a private capacity. Both SNSs attract a variety of members and might be employed differently according to user preferences. They also have interesting qualities and challenges related to trust issues, and in many cases trust may serve as a premise for the success of both services. Research on both LinkedIn and Facebook will provide valuable insights into how different groups of people may employ various SNSs; how different users’ experiences and issues of trust are regarded in both private and professional settings; to what extent notions of privacy might be changing; and how users evaluate risk and trustworthiness when they share digital information. In order to study how different groups of people may experience and employ SNSs, how information and privacy is managed, and how users evaluate risk and trustworthiness, it is necessary to gain access to users of the SNSs. As such, the research project is primarily based on in-depth interviews with users (informants) of one of the two SNSs. The number of in-depth interviews in the project is estimated to be approximately 15 users of each SNS, depending on the point of saturation.