As a society, we value safety highly in our everyday lives.
You probably lock your doors, your car, or your bike to prevent theft. You might put up cameras around your home or hire a security system for more peace of mind. These safety measures are a simple, vital part of our human experience—So why aren’t we taking these precautions when it comes to our online lives?
Are we forgoing a crucial part of our protection from intruders simply because it’s a violation we can’t always see?
According to the NSA, there are roughly 300 million hacking attempts a day and hackers steal 75 records per second. By the time it takes you to upload a picture on Instagram, a hacker could have stolen your information many times over in the same period.
But hackers aren’t the only thing stealing your personal information. Social media sites are keeping millions of personal data points from millions of people, collecting and selling them to third parties.
Data brokers are often responsible for this phenomenon. Anything ranging from your address to your medical records, or your browsing history is stored, sold, and bartered for a profit—and we’re often leaving the door open for intruders to get inside.
These points of information are incredibly valuable to companies, marketers, or investors, and we often give them away for free. The lack of widespread education and knowledge in this rapidly evolving internet space has provided a vehicle for deception and profit capitalization.
So what are our perceptions of internet privacy, and how much do Americans trust social media sites to protect their vulnerable information?
According to a recent survey, almost 60% of respondents felt that social media has made their data less secure. Despite that, 50% of respondents trust social media with their personal information. Over a quarter of respondents thought social media made their data more secure.
Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the survey was the trust level respondents had with sites like Amazon and Google. When asked about the amount of trust they have for eight of the most popular sites, respondents scored Amazon highest at a 6.7 out of a possible 10.
Trailing just slightly behind in trust was another Big Five company, Google, with an average trust rating of 6.1 out of 10. Respondents had the least amount of trust in TikTok.
Despite the trust respondents have, these companies continue to make headlines for major data breaches. Amazon just received an $887 million dollar fine by the European Union in July for a data privacy breach—TikTok, the most downloaded app of 2020, has received public and official scrutiny over privacy concerns, most recently in a July 2021 Dutch Protection Agency investigation and fine.
Of the more than 1100 survey respondents, 32% admitted they had been hacked at some point on a social media site. When asked where most of their data was stolen from, 71% of respondents said they had information stolen from Facebook.
But these privacy concerns aren’t scaring people away from using social media, or even deleting these compromised accounts. Regardless of all of their personal privacy breaches, just under half of respondents had deleted a social media account as a result.
There is one common theme when it comes to privacy concerns across the world: Many people say they care, but less are motivated to do something about it. On average, survey respondents rated their concern about the safety of their personal information a 7.3 out of 10.
But the hacks, breaches, and data collections won’t deter users from participating on social media, no matter how concerned they say they are.
We often view privacy concerns like the stove we forgot to turn off when we left for work. In real life, we’d go back home to turn it off. Online, that sudden panic and realization don’t really make us want to turn around and stop the fire from happening.
Things might burn, but we probably won’t even smell the smoke.