Clearlink survey finds that a majority of Americans are concerned about Facebook privacy issues.
Prior to March 17, 2018, Facebook’s user engagement was already undergoing significant shifts. The social media giant had recently adjusted its algorithms, promising to provide users with fewer ads and more posts from family and friends as Americans demonstrated they were spending less time than ever on each visit to the site.
However, troubling evidence linking Facebook to Russia and the 2016 election as well as violence in Myanmar suggested founder Mark Zuckerberg had already lost control over his platform before news broke that the data of 50 to 90 million users had been sold to a private firm. An independent researcher had gathered data using a personality quiz on Facebook and then sold that data to Cambridge Analytica, a London-based firm confirmed to have ties to the Trump administration.
We wanted to know how Americans were feeling about the data breach and their Facebook usage just weeks after news of it was released. The breach has the potential to significantly impact Facebook and social media usage as a whole in the US, emerging at a time when social media’s image as a shiny, innocuous tool of distraction is vanishing in the face of its confirmed link to mental illness and recent scandals.
With our survey, we hoped to glean a sense of the general public’s primary concerns with using Facebook at this time, so we asked 1,000 individuals of all ages and genders from every US state what most worried them about Facebook. We asked them to choose between the following responses:
- Account Hacking and Impersonation
- The Cambridge Analytica Scandal
- Stalking and Harassment
- Fear of a Coworker or Boss Looking at Profile
- No Concerns about Facebook
Below, we’ll discuss the issues worrying your neighbors most right now. Whether you’ve been glued to breaking news about the Cambridge Analytica fallout or tuned out after hearing initial reports, you’ll learn what concerns your fellow Americans most as we face this massive privacy breach—and what steps you can take to minimize your own risk.
Privacy Matters to Americans
We found that over 37% of our respondents rated privacy as their greatest concern, a sentiment reinforced by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who questioned Zuckerberg unwaveringly about the idea of privacy in America during Zuckerberg’s Congressional hearing in early April.
For many, Facebook’s simple cues over the past fourteen years to share hometowns, new jobs, and relationship statuses probably seemed harmless, as did the cartoonish games and quick quizzes that asked a few more questions of their own. However, knowing details were stored and then sold to a conservative consulting firm has certainly impacted users’ feelings about protecting their privacy. Respondents from 33 out of 50 states (plus Washington DC) rated privacy as their greatest concern in the post–Cambridge Analytica era.
A Lack of Concern
Our results showed that the second-highest worry was, in fact, nothing at all. Whether Facebook’s enormous presence over the last decade-plus has given it revered status in the eyes of devout users or this most recent scandal is white noise to news-fatigued Americans, 23% of the individuals surveyed were not concerned with any of the factors that we listed.
This group, with residents in nine states from Arkansas to Oregon, would be worth surveying more in depth. Perhaps they weren’t active Facebook users, didn’t share much information with Facebook, or didn’t follow news coverage of the breach closely following initial reports.
Other Concerns by State
Out of the group we surveyed, we found that only respondents living in Mississippi ranked the Cambridge Analytica scandal as their primary concern. Mississippian respondents may not have known as much about Facebook’s issues prior to Cambridge Analytica, or perhaps they felt that this incident was more of a worry than anything previously covered in the news. Facebook had already been on the public’s mind prior to the breach, so it isn’t entirely surprising that other states had concerns about Facebook that went beyond this particular instance.
If you live in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, or Wisconsin, those broader concerns from your neighbors include account hacking and impersonation. Social media profiles are powerful tools of representation, so Americans’ fear of those profiles being hacked with the goal of promoting ideas they don’t agree with is understandable.
Overall, more than 38% of our respondents expressed these types of other concerns about Facebook. Add that to the 37% specifically worried about privacy, and those with concerns number well above those who expressed no concern at all.
Most Afraid States
In addition to the survey, we wanted to learn more about what people have been searching for in regards to Facebook. We took a look at search queries around Facebook privacy issues, including the #DeleteFacebook campaign.
According to those search queries, these ten states are the most concerned overall about Facebook and its recent data scandal:
- New York
Whether or not you live in one of these states, if you’re worried about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, general privacy, or account hacking, you can start taking steps to feel safer today.
What You Can Do
According to David DeMille, a cybersecurity expert with A Secure Life, “Severing ties with Facebook requires much more than a simple account deactivation, especially considering the enormous amount of apps and websites Facebook owns and is linked to through joint logins.”
In light of recent news, some users are choosing to delete Facebook accounts and remove those authorizations as first steps. Unfortunately, the Cambridge Analytica scandal has been dominating the news, and Facebook is feeling the financial pinch because of it. Zuckerberg’s brainchild has lost about $80 million in market value as of late March, while the #DeleteFacebook campaign continues to gain high-profile traction from brands and individuals making their disappointment heard.
Regardless of which response feels right to you, staying informed about who has your personal information and being careful about who you share that information with in the future are good first steps toward feeling safer about your level of exposure on social media.
Now that you know how to stay safe, read more about how Clearlink handles data and technology.