Trust, arguably the currency most of value. Arguably the most difficult to build.
And in today’s world, where social media is one of the primary chutes of information and data carriage, the onus is more on the services to inspire confidence.
However, as a spate of high profile scandals would serve to remind, users have increasingly become world-weary with how their data has been treated by these giants of the social space.
To gauge a measure of this disenchantment, a team from the University of Sydney recently conducted a survey of over 1,000 social media users and non-users. It contained subjects from three countries – the US, UK, and Australia. With a special focus on TikTok and its proposed US selloff, the study managed to gain some interesting insight into where people stand on data security.
Going incrementally through the fields polled in the survey, let us start with the most pertinent ones – The general sense of security on social media and the way data is handled there.
And one could almost be forgiven for seeing Facebook’s name at the top of the respective plaques. Again!
When asked about the concern of security risks posed by prominent social media apps, it was Facebook who spiked the levels most.
65.9% of the users were of the view that more than any other in the belt of social media apps, Facebook was riddled with the most security risks. The second spot was taken by another app that has been doused in infamy, ByteDance’s TikTok with 59.3% negative polling in the category. Facebook-owned Instagram, multimedia messaging app Snapchat, and microblogging major Twitter rounded off the top 5, with 53.3%, 47.9%, and 47%, respectively, of users expressing their opinion of risks in the category.
By some distance, it was employment-centric social media service LinkedIn, which inspired the most confidence. Only 37.6% of users polled against it, whereas a shade more than 40% were unconcerned.
Other key takeaways in this category were how users of different generations responded to the level of security risks perceived by them on these apps.
Unsurprisingly, 66% of baby boomers expressed security concerns in regards to Facebook.
TikTok and Instagram, flag-bearing apps of the generation, got somewhat of a pass. 36% of GenZers and 53 % of millennials were unruffled over any likely concerns posed by TikTok and Instagram respectively.
The red flag here – More than 33% of the respondents in the study did not trust any social media service with their data!
As can be seen, the company perhaps most culpable for terse users, despite the ground-breaking shifts they ushered in, is Facebook.
Stringing together a slew of high-profile scandals centred around harvesting user data, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has only served to intensify the glare on the issue of security, bringing several alarming findings to light. Both in its homeland and offshore.
Couple this with the journey TikTok has to chart. For all its mammoth user base (which keeps on rising!), the US government’s apprehension against the Chinese app, along with the exit door shown to its in India, is proof of how running afoul of proper data handling can sever trust. In India, it lost a place where it had such a large user base, crippling its potential and providing a stern warning to future apps.
Encroaching on yet another topic, which has irked and hounded users on social media is – the out-of-control ads.
When polled about targeted ads on several popular social media platforms, Facebook was there to take the cake again.
65.4% of the respondents expressed their bother with the Zuckerberg-led company. Finishing a close second was video streaming service YouTube, inviting displeasure from 59.4% of the users. A look at Facebook’s revenue earned through ads will certify that kind of polling.
LinkedIn again was successful in dodging the bullet. In fact, 41% of the users were unbothered by the targeted apps on LinkedIn’s platform.
Scanning generationally again, 1 in 4 millennials on Instagram and 1 in 3 GenZers on TikTok, expressed no such bother when it came to targeted ads.
What is more telling here is perhaps the fact that Facebook (22.2%) and TikTok (21.4%), were the top on the list when it came to users feeling a lack of control over data being collected on social media platforms.
After all, providing users’ personal information to third parties, for varying purposes, has cut open up a whole range of considerations as to how social media users could possibly be manipulated.
In the same vein, the fear of being hacked and their sensitive data getting harvested ran high, with 40.2% and 38.2% uses respectively putting it on top of the concern list.
Other instances of activity monitoring, identity theft, and password access were also high on the radar, with 36.9%, 32.4%, and 27.2% users saying they were afraid of being victims of these occurrences respectively.
Yet again, in the social media platform where users were hacked or had their data compromised, Facebook laid claim to the top spot. 57.3% of users said this of the platform, while another Facebook-owned service, Instagram came second by getting a poll percentage of 37.7 % here.
Moving on to the special focus of this survey, TikTok’s trust credentials, let’s just say that the results were very much on the unfavourable side for the Chinese superstar app.
A flat out 38.8% have wounded supporting a ban on TikTok when asked in the study. More astonishingly, it was the Millenials raising their voice against the app. A staggering 42% of them, followed by 36.4% GenXers threw their weight behind banning TikTok.
The underlying majority can be understood by how data harvesting, activity monitoring, and child privacy were at the forefront of concerns. 49.5%, 46.1%, and 41.2% of users expressed these parameters to be on top of their minds in terms of security risks.
It should be noted that the numbers could also have been spurred on by the incidents related to these very concerns which TikTok has been reported to have a hand in.
The problems for TikTok are only compounded in the study, as YouTube and Instagram Reels were touted as the most possible switches, gathering a sizeable 24.4% and 18% users on their side.
The China factor, unwarranted or not, was said to be a major factor in the polling. Almost half the users (47%), expressed reservations about China owning the short video messaging service.
That’s not to say that making it US-owned would have made a difference. Almost a similar number (46.3%) users made it clear that they were against that too.
All in all, the numbers polled make it abundantly clear how cynical the users have become of social media. There is work put behind the scenes in these organizations on repairing the trust factor in users to be fair. However, the apple looks to have definitely fallen some way for assurances to be handed out immediately.
Stay tuned for more updates and watch your step in the social media space.