magnifying-glass-1607208_1920It’s an interesting case study.  People give up incredible amounts of private, personal information everyday on social media:  Who they date, where they go, what they eat, where they live, who they are connected to, and on and on.  At the same time, just about nobody trusts social media to keep things private.

More Americans than ever distrust social media when it comes to protecting their privacy online, according to a new study.  Almost nobody thinks the current laws or the social networks themselves will protect them.

The guy who founded craigslist, Craig Newmark, helped sponsor the survey, conducted by Washington-based Rad Campaign and Lincoln Park Strategies.  It found that while 80% of Americans now say they are using social media daily, but 96% do not have a lot of trust social networks will protect their privacy.

Think about that for a minute.  When was the last time you remember that 96% of people agreed about anything?  Really.

For gosh sakes, more people think the US was behind the 9/11 attacks, Paul McCartney died in 1966, think the moon landing was faked, or the government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals.

The number of people that trust social media to protect their privacy in this study are equal to number of people that believe “lizard people” are in control of our society (in secret, of course).


“Use of social media is up, but so is distrust and many people don’t think our current privacy laws are strong enough.” – Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist

Key findings of the survey include:

  • The percentage of Americans who trust social media has decreased over the past two years;
  • Only 7% of Millennials have a lot of trust that social media sites will protect their privacy and personal information. Their trust of social media sites is down 9% from two years ago.
  • Adults 65+ have the least trust;
  • Of those who use social media the most – at least four social media sites – only 14% have a lot of trust in them;
  • Most of the best-known social media sites are seeing increased usage since 2014, according to responses to survey questions about which sites people use.

“These numbers have barely budged over the past two years.  It appears almost no one believes any progress is being made to protect people’s online privacy. Social networks need to be good corporate citizens and be fully transparent about how people’s personal data are being used and take the necessary steps to protect their data.” – Allyson Kapin, Rad Campaign

The threats, according to those surveyed, are real.  They’re worried about downloading a virus or malware (80%), identity theft (75%), tracking cookies placed without consent (72%), and too much personal information being made public (71%) – even if the personal information is stuff they gave up voluntarily.

“As more and more stories are in the news of data being breached, we have not seen any meaningful effect in the number of people using social media sites. We are however seeing a rising skepticism people hold around the ability for these companies to do the right thing when it comes to privacy and data. Social media need to do the necessary work to build more trust among users.” -Stefan Hankin, Lincoln Park Strategies.