New Survey Finds Most Americans Feel Unsafe Online and Find Online Privacy Protections Inadequate

New Survey Finds Most Americans Feel Unsafe Online and Find Online Privacy Protections Inadequate


WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — A new survey has found that more Americans than ever distrust social media when it comes to protecting their privacy online, and many have little or no trust that social media networks or current laws will protect them.

The survey, conducted by Washington-based Rad Campaign and Lincoln Park Strategies, and supported by the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, updated a similar survey conducted in 2014. It found that while 80% of Americans now say they are using social media daily, 96% do not have a lot of trust social networks will protect their privacy. An infographic detailing poll results is available here.

"Use of social media is up, but so is distrust," said Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist, who helped sponsor the survey. "And many people don't think our current privacy laws are strong enough."

Key findings of the survey include:
— The percentage of Americans who trust social media has decreased over the past two years;
— Only 7% of Millennials have a lot of trust that social media sites will protect their privacy and personal information. Their trust of social media sites is down 9% from two years ago.
— Adults 65+ have the least trust;
— Of those who use social media the most – at least four social media sites – only 14% have a lot of trust in them;
— Most of the best-known social media sites are seeing increased usage since 2014, according to responses to survey questions about which sites people use.

Further, while about a third (38%) believes that current privacy laws provide reasonable protections; nearly as many (33%) find them to be inadequate. Only a very few (5%) believe current privacy laws are too strict or hindered their online activities.

The online privacy threats that Americans are most concerned about include downloading a virus or malware (80%), identity theft (75%), tracking cookies placed without consent (72%), and too much personal information being made public (71%).

"These numbers have barely budged over the past two years," said Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign. "It appears almost no one believes any progress is being made to protect people's online privacy. Social networks need to be good corporate citizens and be fully transparent about how people's personal data are being used and take the necessary steps to protect their data."

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

The poll's margin of error is plus/minus 3.07% at the 95% confidence level. Millennials are defined as people ages 18-35.

Rad Campaign is a social change web agency that provides web development and researches trends on Internet culture. Lincoln Park Strategies is a full-service analytic research firm based in Washington, DC.

Bruce Bonafede