This week's relaunch of pioneering social networking site Friends Reunited has brought back memories of all the buzz of using the site. You were in the dark and not cool unless you were using the site. In its hey-day it had as many as 15 million users were using the site mainly to reconnect with old school friends. The UK-based network, first began in 2000, however, more technologically-advanced social network sites have emerged since then, such as MySpace and then Facebook, and so over time Friends Reunited struggled to hold on to an active user base.
Many people may not have used the site for 10 years or more. During that time users' details have been gathering social media dust so the relaunch should act as a reminder to those users to check what personal details are still held on the site and to then update their information or delete their dormant profile.
Legal & General's Digital Criminal 2012: CyberSafety report revealed that nearly three out of five (58%) social media users have set up a profile on the internet which they no longer use. Top of this list is Friends Reunited, where over a third (35%) of respondents stated that they have information, dormant profiles, that they've not used or checked.
Over one in 10 (11%) social media users said that they've set-up an old online profile and have completely forgotten which site they were on!
Our research reveals that Friends Reunited tops the list of the top five social networking sites on which people have dormant profiles:
1. Friends Reunited (35%)
2. My Space (30%)
3. Bebo (20%)
4. Dating websites (18%)
5. Twitter (14%)
Although I think Friends Reunited's relaunch will be a reminder to many of the fun using this social media site was to connect, keep in touch and in some circumstances make new connections with the friends and family of people we knew at various stages in our lives. I'd also hope the relaunch will act as a reminder to be cautious about connecting with 'virtual' friends and of the need for all those who use social media, to carry out some 'virtual housekeeping'.
As new social networking sites have developed we've become much more aware of the risks of posting personal details. But older user profiles on Friends Reunited may contain some very personal details, because at the time we were not so aware of the risks. This information although old, could still inadvertently put us at risk from Digital Criminals. Legal & General's CyberSafety report revealed that burglars are capitalising on the volume of personal information publicly available online and on social networking sites, in order to burgle victim's homes and take their possessions.
Worryingly, many people aren't aware of what information the internet has stored about them. Almost half of social media users (49%) have never 'Googled' themselves to see what personal information is actually available.. Almost one fifth of social media users (17%) who have 'Googled' themselves have found personal information that they weren't aware was displayed online for all to see.
I would recommend people have a look at the 'virtual housekeeping' tips outlined in our Cybersafety report to help them improve their online security. That way people can continue to enjoy the benefits of social media, such as revisiting Friends Reunited, without putting themselves and their homes at risk.