Who Do You Trust With Your Personal Data?

Personal data is more valuable than ever and is a key component in many areas of modern life, from influencing the result of elections and  maintaining public safety amid the COVID-19 crisis. Technology companies like Facebook and Google make billions of dollars collecting and selling the information people share online, from names and addresses, to political opinions, private conversations, and physical location.

The massive influx of personal information that has become available online and stored in the cloud has put user privacy at the forefront of discussion regarding the database's ability to safely store such personal information. The personal risk and traumatic impact of identity theft should not be underestimated. 

Research produced by the Communications and PR firm Edelman shows that many Americans don’t completely trust social media with their personal data. Indeed, most Americans trust social media more than the US government. According to Edelman, only 28% of respondents said they didn’t trust Amazon to handle their information, while according to Privacy Tiger 32% say they don't trust Google and 34% don’t trust Facebook. 

However, 35% of US respondents said they didn’t trust the US government to handle their info.

The extent to which other users and social media platform administrators can access user profiles has become a hot topic for  ethical debate and the boundaries of privacy violations are critical concerns in the digital age. US citizens’ communications are under constant surveillance by the government, which has access to the same sensitive data as social media companies and Edward Snowden’s revelations woke up many to the government citizen spying taking place. 

For most Americans, the question isn’t whether their data is being tracked, but who can they can trust trust to handle it responsibly. The Social Media industry has issues with covert surveillance and since its inception Facebook has had many security issues, most notably in the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, when 50 million users’ personal data was harvested without consent for political advertising.

Despite Facebook’s poor history of protecting the privacy its users, research shows that 32% of Americans still trust the tech giant more than their elected officials with their personal data.

Data shows shockingly high trust in Facebook across the entire working population of the US. This trust peaked among 35–44 year olds, 39% of whom said they trust Facebook more than their own government. Women were significantly more willing than men to hand their private information to Facebook, with data suggesting that 38% of women versus 28% of men trusted Facebook over the government with their privacy.

Studies indicate that women are more likely to disclose personal information on their profiles, suggesting they may be less concerned about the privacy ramifications of sharing data with a corporation because of the social benefits it provides.
However, by being highly active on social media, women are also driving online advertising trends and dominating the narrative of this space. If women are the real power behind social media, perhaps they’ll be the ones putting pressure on companies like Facebook to clean up their data handling practices in the future.

Everyone in the security and privacy trade has strong feelings about personal data and users' vulnerability to inappropriate use, loss, theft, or disclosure. What level of risk can be considerwed acceptable seems to vary widely and there is a clear case for minimum legally enforceable standards to be established.

Edelman:           Venafi:             DocumentCloud:     PrivacyTiger

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