Facebook ranks last in digital trust among consumers

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When it comes to protecting users’ personal information and providing a safe online environment, social network users in the US give lower marks to Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. According to Insider Intelligence’s annual “US Digital Trust Survey,” LinkedIn is the most trusted social platform overall. We define digital trust as the confidence users have in a social media platform to protect their information and provide a safe environment for them to create and engage with content.

In the 2020 “US Digital Trust Survey,” we evaluated consumer perceptions of the major social networks within five categories of trust: security, legitimacy, community, ad experience, and ad relevance*. We ranked nine platforms—Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, reddit, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube—according to how our respondents perceived them along those five pillars of digital trust. We fielded the online survey of 1,865 US respondents ages 18 to 74 between May 28, 2020 and June 3, 2020, using a sample provided by a third party.

We found that Facebook was the least trusted social media platform regarding data privacy. Nearly one-third (32%) of US Facebook users at least somewhat disagreed that they had confidence in the platform to protect their data and privacy. Just 10% of LinkedIn’s users said the same of the professional network.How Much Do US Social Media Users Agree That Social Media Platforms Protect Their Privacy and Data

“Two years after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, we expect that Facebook’s massive data privacy issues during that time have persisted in public memory and continue to be a black mark on its record,” said Audrey Schomer, senior research analyst at Insider Intelligence. “This is likely driving nearly one-third of US Facebook users to continue to view Facebook as a platform that doesn’t adequately protect their data. Our research highlights the great importance of data privacy protections by social networks to ensure that user engagement data isn’t mishandled or misappropriated.” 

A majority (53%) of US Facebook users at least somewhat agreed that the platform protects their data and privacy, but this was the lowest share of respondents among all platforms we measured. 

“To Facebook’s credit, it has made efforts to give users more control over their data through opt-in and opt-out features tied to what data is shared and what ads they’re shown, as well as by increasing its own transparency into what data is collected,” said Daniel Carnahan, research analyst at Insider Intelligence. “Nevertheless, it appears that these efforts are still having only minimal effects on US user sentiment.”

TikTok and Twitter were the next-to-worst performers when it came to confidence in their user data and privacy handling. About one in five US TikTok and Twitter users (22% and 21%, respectively) at least somewhat lacked confidence in the platforms to protect their data and privacy. While majority shares of the two platforms’ respective users felt confident that their data and privacy was being protected, they were still less confident compared with users of other platforms. For TikTok, intensifying scrutiny from the US government has likely had a negative impact on some users’ confidence in the app. When our survey was conducted, many US legislators were voicing their concerns about TikTok’s connections to the Chinese government. As for Twitter, it had already come under fire in 2019 for sharing some users’ data with advertisers without their permission. It also fixed a bug that accidentally collected and shared user location data.

LinkedIn and Pinterest ranked highest when it came to confidence in their ability to provide security. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of LinkedIn users and 66% of Pinterest users at least somewhat agreed that the respective platforms protect their privacy and data. LinkedIn and Pinterest have each received very little media attention related to data privacy issues, which likely contributes to their more positive perceptions among users.

What the Results Mean

Digital trust is important for brands and advertisers to consider because US social users say it impacts whether they will interact with the ads they see on social platforms. Even if security scandals don’t drive users to stop using social platforms, our data indicates that the trust users have—or don’t have—in social platforms could impact their interactions with ads or sponsored content. In fact, 79% of respondents said whether a platform protects their privacy and data was either extremely or very impactful when it comes to their decision to engage with ads. And 30% of respondents said that whether a platform shows them relevant ads had an extremely or very high impact.

This article was originally published on eMarketer.

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Facebook wants to know how it’s shaping the 2020 elections — researchers say it’s looking too late and in the wrong places (FB)

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Facebook was first warned in late 2015 that Cambridge Analytica was misusing data illicitly harvested from millions of Americans in an attempt to sway the 2016 US elections.

It didn’t pull the plug on the firm’s access to user data until March 2018 after reporting from The Guardian turned the breach into a global scandal.

More than two years later — and barely two months before the deadline for votes to cast their ballots in the 2020 elections — Facebook has decided it wants to know more about how it impacts democracy, announcing last week that it would partner with 17 researchers to study the impact of Facebook and Instagram on voters’ attitudes and actions.

But researchers outside of the project are conflicted. While they praised Facebook for promising to ensure more transparency and independence than it has before, they also questioned why the company waited so long and just how much this study will really bring to light.

“Isn’t this a little bit too late?” Fadi Quran, a campaign director with nonprofit research group Avaaz, told Business Insider.

“Facebook has known now for a long time that there’s election interference, that malicious actors are using the platform to influence voters,” he said. “Why is this only happening now at such a late stage?” 

Facebook said it doesn’t “expect to publish any findings until mid-2021 at the earliest.” The company did not reply to a request for comment on this story.

Since the company is leaving it to the research team to decide which questions to ask and draw their own conclusions — a good thing — we don’t yet know much about what they hope to learn. In its initial announcement, Facebook said it’s curious about: “whether social media makes us more polarized as a society, or if it largely reflects the divisions that already exist; if it helps people to become better informed about politics, or less; or if it affects people’s attitudes towards government and democracy, including whether and how they vote.”

Facebook executives have reportedly known the answer to that first question — that the company’s algorithms do help polarize and radicalize people — and that they knowingly shut down efforts to fix the issue or even research it more.

But even setting that aside, researchers say they’ve already identified some potential shortcomings in the study.

“A lot of the focus of this work is very much about how honest players are using these systems,” Laura Edelson, a researcher who studies political ads and misinformation at New York University, told Business Insider.

“Where I’m concerned is that they’re almost exclusively not looking at the ways that things are going wrong, and that’s where I wish this was going further,” she added.

Quran echoed that assessment, saying: “One big thing that they’re going to miss by not looking more deeply at these malicious actors, and just by the design, is the scale of content that’s been created by these actors and that’s influencing public opinion.”

A long list of research and media reports have documented Facebook’s struggles to effectively keep political misinformation off its platform — let alone misleading health claims, which despite Facebook’s more aggressive approach, still racked up four times as many views as posts from sites pushing accurate information, according to Avaaz. 

But political information is much more nuanced and constantly evolving, and even in what seem to be clear-cut cases, Facebook has, according to reports, at times incorrectly enforced its own policies or bent over backward to avoid possible political backlash.

Quran and Edelson both worried that Facebook’s election study may not capture the full impact of aspects of the platform like its algorithms, billions of fake accounts, or private groups.

“You find what you go and you look for,” Edelson said. “The great problem of elections on Facebook is not how the honest actors are working within the system.”

Quran also said, though it’s too early say this will happen for sure, that because it’s Facebook asking users directly within their apps to join the study, sometimes in exchange for payment, it risks inadvertently screening out people who are distrustful of the company to begin with.

“We’re already seeing posts on different groups that share disinformation telling people: ‘Don’t participate in the study, this is a Facebook conspiracy'” to spy on users or keep Republicans off the platform ahead of the election, he said. “What this could lead to, potentially, is that the people most impacted by disinformation are not even part of the study.”

In a best-case scenario, Edelson said the researchers could learn valuable information about how our existing understanding of elections maps onto the digital world. Quran said the study could even serve as an “information ecosystem impact assessment,” similar to environmental impact studies, that would help Facebook understand how changes it could make might impact the democratic process.

But both were skeptical that Facebook would make major changes based on this study or the 2020 elections more broadly. And Quran warned that, despite Facebook’s efforts to make the study independent, people shouldn’t take the study as definitive or allow it to become a “stamp of approval.”

It took Facebook nearly four years from when it learned about Cambridge Analytica to identify the tens of thousands of apps that were also misusing data. And though it just published the results of its first independent civil rights audit, the company has made few commitments to implement any of the auditors’ recommendations.

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