I am a current student researching the findings from the QNRF NPRP grant, “Media Use in the Middle East” (NPRP 7-1757-5-261), a seven-nation survey by Northwestern University in Qatar. I am particularly interested in the issue of privacy related to social media use in Qatar. Over the last decade, social media has significantly changed the way people interact with their friends and family members, especially in the sheer number of people that we can interact with, including by sending our messages out to thousands or even millions of people. Although social media, like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, now plays a big role in our day-to-day lives, use of these applications could also cause serious privacy concerns. Most of the social media sites have personal information that is required, like your name, birthday, status, email address, and sometimes even your location. These data normally reveal the user's information to all of the people within a particular social media network. Thus, when you use social media, you are basically posting your personal information online, changing the nature of the information from private to semi-public, and it may end up falling into wrong hands. This information can be used by burglars, stalkers, cyberbullies, sexual experimentation and hackers to cause harm to the users and to society as a whole. (O»Keeffe & Pearson 2011). Thus, it is important to further explore the level of privacy concerns regarding social media use in Qatar, as well as steps that users are taking to protect themselves. In particular, my research is informed by a study that provides an integrated framework for cultural values and information technology use in the Middle East, which helps us with “understanding privacy and related issues that arise when personal information is shared or exchanged using information technology” (Norhayati, Jeffrey, Shreya 2003). The study's research can help understand and predict individuals’ culturally linked reactions to various social media sites in diverse cultural contexts. In my research, I am placing Qatar in comparative context with the other countries surveyed, but focusing in-depth on Qatar specifically, both nationals and expatriates. I am interested in Qatar in particular because Qatar is one of the highest countries when it comes to having concerns of privacy in social media. I want to look at both nationals and expats in Qatar because online privacy affects both sets of people, and it is important to understand why expats have even higher concerns than nationals about privacy in social networking. I am interested in exploring two sets of questions. First, I analyze an overall question, which asks respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement, “Concerns about privacy have changed the way I use social media.” Then, I look in depth at specific ways in which people report changing the way they use social media, including adjusting privacy settings, how often do they post, whether they stopped using their real name on social media and whether they connect with fewer people on social media. I am interested both in understanding the levels of privacy concern in Qatar versus the other countries, as well as which specific types of people in Qatar express concerns or choose to modify their behavior, and why they do so. My beginning research shows how residents and nationals of Qatar view privacy concerns on social media compared to the other countries. The seven countries can be ranked from the highest to the least regarding those who have changed the way they use social media because of privacy concerns: UAE (41%), Qatar (33%), KSA (26%), Jordan (24%), Egypt (19%), Tunisia (16%) and Lebanon (14%). As you can see, Qatar has the highest privacy concerns after UAE. Looking specifically at who in Qatar expresses concerns about privacy, I was surprised to find that there isn't a gender difference when it comes to privacy concerns in social media. It is frequently assumed that men have more freedom than women and that men don't have to be concerned about what other people think of them. However, men and women in Qatar were equally likely to express privacy concerns, demonstrating that this is not a gender issue. When comparing age groups, both nationals and expatriates in Qatar express the highest levels of concern in the age group of 25-34 years old (See Fig. 1.) This is a particularly interesting finding, but we need more research to tell the full story. One possible reason for the increase in privacy concerns at this age level might be because of the impact of reputation on opportunities for marriage and employment. A last interesting finding is that Western, Arab, and Asian expatriates in Qatar are more worried about privacy on social media than Qatari nationals are, 36% expats are concerned about privacy while only 21% nationals are worried. Is there something about the expatriate experience here in Qatar that makes expatriates more concerned about their online privacy? Again, we need more research to find out. I am now continuing my research by interviewing Qatari expatriates and nationals, specifically those in the age group of 25 to 34, to discover whether they are concerned about privacy on social media and, if so, why, and what they have done to change their behavior to protect themselves online (and how these behaviors relate to the survey results on this topic). This additional information will connect the dots together and create a complete story of the importance of privacy on social media, and how people in Qatar are handling privacy concerns related to their social media use. References: O»Keeffe, G. S., & Pearson, K. C. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. American Academy of Pediatrics. Norhayati Zakaria, Jeffrey M. Stanton, Shreya T.M. Sarkar-Barney, (2003) «Designing and implementing culturally-sensitive IT applications: The interaction of culture values and privacy issues in the Middle East», Information Technology & People, Vol. 16 Issue: 1, pp.49-75, https://doi.org/10.1108/09593840310463023


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