Factors Influencing Adoption and Usage of Location-Sharing Social Media

Project Dates: 
May 2009
Research Area(s): 

NSF, Disney Research, Samsung

Project Description: 

Research shows that sharing one’s location can help people stay connected, coordinate daily activities, and provide a sense of comfort and safety [1]. Recently, smartphones and location-based services (LBS) have become widely available in developed countries [7], but only a small percentage of smartphone users have ever tried sharing lo­cation with other people [8]. Our work aims to understand real-world factors shaping behaviors and attitudes towards social location-sharing, especially in regards to why people avoid or abandon the technology, or limit their usage. We believe though that our work has broader implications since our data strongly sug­gests that similar underlying factors also impact usage style and attitudes towards other social media.

Based on exploratory qualitative and quantitative research, and follow-on confirmatory studies, we have validated conceptual models describing factors that greatly impact how and whether people use current location-sharing social media. Through a series of nationwide surveys and quantitative analysis, we have been able to operationalize, refine, and confirm these theories [2–6]:

Offline Boundary Preservation is a root cause of Privacy Concerns [6]. Diverse privacy concerns (such as informational, psychological, interactional, and physical privacy issues) are often cited across the social media and location-sharing literature. We found that for location-sharing services, these seemingly disparate privacy concerns are all just symptoms of a higher-level desire to protect one’s existing offline relationship boundaries. That is, sharing location is not necessarily cause for concern, only when someone is worried that it will change their existing relationships with others. Along similar lines, location disclosure events are not necessarily an intrusion if they fall within expectations for a given relationship. While privacy concerns do not predict actual location-sharing service usage or usage intention (as has been also observed in the literature), we found that the higher-level boundary preservation concern (BPC) does. Furthermore, heavier social media users tend to have lower boundary preservation concern and the effect of social media use on privacy concerns is completely mediated by BPC.

Values shape Privacy Practices [3]. One’s values can greatly impact one’s social interactions including privacy management practices. For example, we found that an individual’s propensity to use lying as a privacy management tactic affects their location-sharing attitudes. For individuals with high propensity to lie, location-sharing increases boundary preservation concerns by limiting those individual’s ability to lie. This propensity decreases with age. However, this does not mean location-sharing services should rush to provide ways of lying and obscuring one’s location. Individuals on the other end of the spectrum avoid current location-sharing technologies in part because they consider hiding their location from someone a deceptive act. Others refuse to use a service where others could manually set a fake location. This suggests a need for value-based “honest” technology design. Values such as this need to be considered when new technology introduces new information flows which effect how people can manage their privacy.

Communication Style determining Technology Use [2]We found that intent and actual use of location-sharing services is largely determined by one’s preferred communication style (a stable disposition). Social media enables a new communication style we term “FYI” where people can share about them­selves and learn about others without having to bother others or be bothered to interact. Preference for FYI communication also greatly determines the extent to which one uses existing social media features to convey nonverbal cues crucial to shaping the context and meaning of a communication. This, in turn, impacts the extent of social media participation. FYI is also inversely related to the desire to call others on the phone and completely mediates the effect of age as well as big-5 personality traits on usage. This may explain inconsistent effects of personality on social media use found throughout the literature.

Our current research builds on these findings by incorporating and testing these theories in systems design. 

[1]       Barkhuus, L., Brown, B., Bell, M., Sherwood, S., Hall, M. and Chalmers, M. 2008. From Awareness to Repartee: Sharing Location within Social Groups. Proc. CHI 2008 (2008), 497–506.

[2]       Page, X., Knijnenburg, B.P. and Kobsa, A. 2013. FYI: Communication Style Preferences Underlie Differences in Location-Sharing Adoption and Usage. UbiComp 2013 (to appear. 2013).

[3]       Page, X., Knijnenburg, B.P. and Kobsa, A. 2013. What a Tangled Web We Weave: Lying in Location-Sharing Social Media. Proc. CSCW 2013 (2013).

[4]       Page, X. and Kobsa, A. 2010. Navigating the Social Terrain with Google Latitude. Proc. iConference 2010 (2010).

[5]       Page, X. and Kobsa, A. 2009. The Circles of Latitude: Adoption and Usage of Location Tracking in Online Social Networking. CSE 2009 (2009), 1027–1030.

[6]       Page, X., Kobsa, A. and Knijnenburg, B.P. 2012. Don’t Disturb My Circles! Boundary Preservation Is at the Center of Location-Sharing Concerns. Proc. ICWSM 2012 (2012).

[7]       Tsai, J.Y., Kelley, P., Cranor, L.F. and Sadeh, N. 2010. Location-Sharing Technologies: Privacy Risks and Controls. I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society. 6, 1 (2010), 119–151.

[8]       Zickuhr, K. 2012. Three-quarters of smartphone owners use location-based services. Pew Internet & American Life Project.