SYDNEY: The majority of Australians are comfortable with social media monitoring to detect possible terrorist activity but only one third as many like the idea of targeted advertising on social media.

Part of a global study covering 12 countries, the Unisys Security Insights: Australia social media monitoring report from the global IT firm surveyed 1,210 adult Australians and found that while 79% accepted the need for organisations to check social media for purposes such as the detection of terrorist activity, just 27% were happy about the idea of specific individuals being identified for targeted advertising or offers.

Younger Australians aged 18-24 years, however, were the most comfortable with social media monitoring for targeted advertising and offers, B&T reported.

Two other Asia-Pacific countries were also studied and while the results from New Zealand were broadly similar to those of Australia, it was clear that the views of Malaysian consumers were very different, in at least some respects.

A significantly smaller proportion (59%) were comfortable with monitoring social media for terrorist activity, but they were twice as likely (60%) to welcome the idea of targeted advertising.

Across the other purposes suggested as reasons for monitoring social media – identifying issues of public concern, tracking sentiment about how an organisation is performing, and evaluating job candidates for positions of trust – there was broad agreement across all three countries.

The study observed a shift in attitudes as consumers became increasingly aware of the power of big data analytics. Where once they had felt able to enjoy a sense of anonymity because of the sheer effort involved in sifting social networking data, that was no longer the case thanks to improved technology.

In the Observer, columnist John Naughton recently argued that it was wrong to assume that people put up with companies “spying" on them because they ended up getting a good deal out of it – in terms of “free" internet services.

He cited US research which suggests consumers are not really engaged in a trade-off but are rather resigned to giving up their data, seeing it as inevitable and feeling powerless to stop it.

Data sourced from Unisys, B&T, The Observer; additional content by Warc staff