Yesterday a colleague in our Hong Kong office passed on a few screen captures from an ESOMAR/SSI webinar on social media use in Asia. Given all of the recent hubbub about social media research and privacy I found this one to be especially interesting. As I have written here before, the argument the industry is having often comes down to disagreement about people's expectations when they post something on a social networking site. For me, at least, the intriguing thing about these data is not the clear expectation of privacy in the US and the EU—I think most of us already knew that--but rather how to explain the sometimes dramatic differences among countries. I ran through various explanations in my head including culture, level of economic development, political system, etc. and none seemed to work. There was always an exception or two.
And then it hit me: Internet penetration! So I did a quick correlation of percent agreeing that "companies should be allowed to collect information from social networking sites when it is posted online in a public forum" with Internet penetration as reported by Internet World Stats. I know, only seven observations but bear with me. The correlation is -.96. So the more Internet use goes mainstream the greater the expectation of privacy. Early Internet adopters don't care about privacy or at least accept it as a risk of being online, but real people do care and expect protection.