Moral Low Ground


Survey: Most Americans Have Little Or No Trust In Social Media Sites

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The majority of Americans have little or no trust that social media sites will respect and protect their online privacy.

So say the results of a recently-released survey of American adults about their privacy experiences on the Internet.

The survey, commissioned by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, asked 1,007 respondents a variety of questions about social media and online privacy. It found that 74 percent of Americans are either “very or somewhat concerned” about having too much of their personal information online.

A majority of respondents — 57 percent — said they had “little or no trust” in social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Only 22 percent said they had “some trust” in these sites, while only seven percent expressed “a lot of trust” in social media.

social media trust

Despite the high level of distrust in social media sites, most of the survey respondents used them nonetheless.

“People are concerned with privacy, but not enough that they are willing to forego sites like Facebook or Twitter,” Stefan Hankin, founder of polling firm Lincoln Park Strategies, told eWeek.

“These sites, especially Facebook, are how millions of people communicate with friends and family, and not using them because of privacy concerns would have an impact on the way that people are able to connect with others and be involved in their lives,” added Hankin.

Fully 73 percent of survey respondents were “very or somewhat concerned” about having tracking cookies placed on their computers without their knowledge; 36 percent reported finding cookies that were unknowingly installed on their computers.

Seven in 10 Americans also believe social networks and sites like Google and Yahoo are collecting and selling their personal data. This information includes interests, political affiliation and purchase habits. Corporations use this data to better target potential customers with advertisements and content. Around the same percentage of survey respondents said they were concerned that their personal information was being sold.

Despite being concerned about the dissemination of their private data, only 17 percent of Americans read sites’ terms of service before agreeing. Nearly one in four respondents said they just clicked “agree” without reading any TOS.

“On one hand, Americans are quite concerned about their online privacy, but on the other hand, the majority of Americans are using websites and social media platforms without reading very much of the TOS,” Hankin told the Huffington Post. “That’s a problem.”

Distrust of social networks and websites increases with age, the survey found. Respondents over age 65 reported the least trust in these sites, as well as the most fear that their personal data was being sold. People in this demographic were also most likely to want stronger online privacy laws.

“Seniors generally express more concerns about privacy since they grew up without the Internet, computers and social media sites and have a different relationship with the medium,” Hankin told eWeek. “When they grew up, it was much easier to keep life private compared to now.”

“Younger people are more accustomed to having their information online, and therefore are less concerned since it’s what they know,” added Hankin.

While companies may be buying private user data and then using it to market goods and services to the very same users, a 2013 Forrester Research survey of 75,000 US and European adults found that few people trust the most common types of digital advertising and promotions. In the US, only 15 percent of respondents said they trusted social media marketing and only 10 percent said they trusted online ads.

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