People don't trust social media networks, use them anyway

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More Americans than ever before are using social media websites, but they don’t trust that their privacy and cybersecurity will be protected when they do, a new survey found.

The survey, published this week, was conducted by Rad Campaign and Lincoln Park Strategies, and sponsored by the Craig Newmark Foundation. It updated a similar opinion poll conducted in 2014.

The survey found that while 80 percent of Americans now say they are using social media, only 4 percent say they have a great deal of trust that their personal information is secure with them. More than half (53 percent) say they have either no or very little trust. Two years ago, 7 percent said they had a great deal of trust.

“Use of social media is up, but so is distrust” since 2014, said Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist, who sponsored the survey. “And many people don’t think our current privacy laws are strong enough.”

Millennials, defined as 18-35 years old, unsurprisingly use social media more often than average — 93 percent as opposed to 80 percent among the population a whole. The age cohort that uses social media the least is 65-plus, where only two-thirds use it. Millennials also are more trusting of social media’s ability and willingness to keep their personal data secure. Seven percent say they have a great deal of trust, compared to 4 percent overall. But there is a gender disparity among millennials: 11 percent of men 18-35 have a great deal of trust in social media sites to keep their data secure, more than double the number of young women where only 5 percent have a great deal of trust.

Among those 65 and over, only 1 percent have a great deal of trust.

The number one concern for Americans using social media sites was downloading a virus or other malware, cited by 79 percent. This was followed closely by identity theft, cited by 75 percent; too much private information being made public, at 72 percent; and having their email hacked (69 percent). More than a third (35 percent) feared being bullied or harassed online when using social media.

Again, there was a noticeable gender gap: in every category of concern, women were more fearful than men. The gap was most pronounced concerning fear of harassment, which was a concern to 40 percent of women, but only 30 percent of men.

“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,” said Stefan Hankin, president of Lincoln Park Strategies. “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,” he added. “Social media need to do the necessary work to build more trust among users.”

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Craig Newmark, social media, trust