Facebook’s Chasm Of Distrust: An Ever-Deepening Divide

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Facebook, the world’s most popular social media platform has failed measurably as it is voted as the least trusted social media platform for users’ data and privacy. Surprisingly, it’s not the first time when Zuckerberg led social media platform is crowned with something that nobody wants to compete for.

You may have every possession in the world, perfectly happy with every sphere of your life, but it would still be incomplete without trust. Goodwill and trust are like the sheen to gold, an invaluable attribute, without which all is lost.

In Facebook’s case, that sheen has been coming off from quite some time now.

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In an annual survey, titled as “US Digital Trust Survey ‘20” and conducted by Insider Intelligence, Facebook was found to be the least trusted platform in line of data privacy. In the online survey, taken with 1,865 willing respondents, surprisingly, a shade over a third voted that they did not have sufficient confidence in the social media behemoth to protect their data and privacy. When it comes to protecting users’ personal information and providing a safe online environment, the social network which inspired most trust in the users was found to be LinkedIn.

The 2020 edition of the US Digital survey aimed to rank nine of the most prominent social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, catering to five categories which included trust, security, legitimacy, community, and ad experience and relevance. The social behemoth performed poorly along with Twitter, the preferred microblogging network of bigwigs, and the talk of the town TikTok, who also languished at the bottom of the pile.

Here are some of the key findings of the study:

  • 73% of LinkedIn users trust in the platforms and measures taken to protect their privacy and data.
  • Despite ranking at the second last position TikTok won the highest percentage of users who strongly believe that the platform is safe for data privacy.
  • None of Facebook’s family of apps could secure a position in the top three.
  • TikTok, LinkedIn and Snapchat are the top three apps whose users strongly agree that the platforms protect their privacy and data.

What is doubly disappointing from the survey is that this is not just a one-off for the Menlo Park, California based company. Facebook has indeed been on a slippery slope and its ability to conjure the same level of trust and engagement as in the past decade has been all but wavering.

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In the survey, digital trust was aptly defined 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.” With the crème de la crème of scandals in Cambridge Analytica and repeated protests over its inability to combat hate speech, the credibility of the company has certainly taken a huge hit in the user’s eyes.

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While a majority (53%) of US Facebook users at least somewhat unconvincingly agreed that the platform protects their data and privacy, it’s safe to say that the ghost of Facebook’s massive past data privacy issues persist in public memory and continue to be a blot on their brand. If we were to take a short detour, a combination of these issues is also adversely affecting the company to gather user bases in promising demographics like the African community, which alone lays a huge marker of the problems which have infested.

What the research has done is bring to spotlight the great importance of data privacy protections that social networks should undertake to ensure that user engagement data isn’t mishandled or misappropriated. 

This is not to suggest by any means that Facebook is not trying to stem the issues. To their credit, the company has made vast 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. However, touted by many, the changes are still found wanting by the larger US user sentiment.  

No doubt TikTok and Twitter comprise the next-to-worst performers when it came to confidence in their user data and privacy handling, the situation is much direr for Facebook. For TikTok, intensifying scrutiny from the US government is likely to have had a negative impact on some users’ confidence in the app. Twitter for another, laid its own groundwork when it came under fire in 2019 for sharing some users’ data with advertisers without their permission.

LinkedIn and Pinterest have each received very little media attention related to data privacy issues, which seems to have aided them in cultivating positive perceptions among users and emerging on top in the list of most trusted social media platforms.

Keeping these results in mind, the titan that Facebook is, it must endure. It needs to implement genuine and failsafe practices in order to win back the trust of its mammoth user base, lest this issue starts hollowing it from within. Stay tuned to this space for more interesting updates.

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