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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Towards understanding users' motivation to share health information on Facebook Torabi, Sadegh


Motivated by the two-way benefits, people have used a variety of web-based services to share health information (HI) online. Among these services, Facebook, which enjoys the largest population of active subscribers, has become a common place for sharing various types of HI. At the same time, Facebook was shown to be vulnerable to various attacks, resulting in unintended information disclosure, privacy invasion, and information misuse. As such, Facebook users face the dilemma of benefiting from HI sharing and risking their privacy. In this work, we investigate HI sharing practices, preferences, and risk perceptions among Facebook users. Our exploration focused on two main goals: (1) to identify the key factors that influenced users’ motivation to share HI on Facebook, and (2) to highlight a number of features that could motivate people toward engaging in effective HI sharing on Facebook. To achieve these goals, we first surveyed 166 active Facebook users about their HI sharing practices and risk perceptions. We quantified HI sharing practices and confirmed that it has become a common practice among users. Moreover, we found that the type of the shared HI and its recipients, can highly influence users’ perceived privacy risks when sharing HI. Following our preliminary survey, we interviewed 21 participants with chronic health conditions to identify the key factors that influence users’ motivation to share HI on Facebook. Then, we conducted an online survey with 492 Facebook users in order to validate, refine, and extend our findings. The results suggest that the gained benefits from prior HI sharing experiences, and users’ overall attitudes toward privacy, correlate with their motivation to disclose HI. Furthermore, we identify other factors, specifically users’ perceived health and the audience of the shared HI, that appear to be linked with users’ motivation to share HI. Finally, we suggest design improvements— such as anonymous identity as well as search and recommendation features— for facilitating HI sharing on Facebook and similar sites.

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