February 2024 marks 20 years of Facebook’s existence. Despite the brand being well established worldwide and in our day to day lives, only 6% of people trust it and other social media companies with their personal data.
In a survey of 12,000 people across the globe, the Thales 2024 Digital Trust Index found that trust in social media companies is lowest in Japan (2%) and the UK (3%).
Brits are the most distrusting nation when it comes to social media companies, with 26% going as far as to say that they would not be happy to share any personal information with these companies. This is compared to just 14% globally.
Conversely, citizens in the US were the most trusting of social media companies (10%).
Social Media Data Practices Need to Change
Javvad Malik, lead security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, told Infosecurity, “With the continuous number of breaches and misuse of data have occurred (and continue to occur) at social media providers, it is no surprise that people don’t trust these organizations to safeguard their data.”
In 2023 Meta was slapped with a €1.2bn fine ($1.3bn) by the Irish Data Protection Authority (IE DPA) following an inquiry into its Facebook service.
Malik pointed out that people still use these platforms and almost resign themselves to the fact that this is just how things are and there’s not much they can do about it.
Speaking to Infosecurity about the Thales report, Charles Howes, CEO at digital marketing firm Klatch, said these findings underscore an urgent need for a recalibration of priorities within the social media landscape.
“To rebuild trust, social media companies must prioritize transparency, accountability, and user empowerment,” Howes said. “Firstly, transparency is paramount; users deserve clear and comprehensive explanations regarding data usage, content moderation policies, and algorithmic processes. Accountability follows closely, necessitating swift and fair responses to issues such as misinformation, harassment and privacy breaches.”
He also highlighted that fostering collaboration with regulators, civil society, and academia is crucial.
It is also essential that social media providers not only offer tools that can help people better understand the options and control they have over their data, but to also make these functions easily available and understandable, Malik said.
“Otherwise, in many cases, people are oblivious to the fact that they have options,” he added.
Users should regularly review and adjust privacy settings on Facebook and other social media platforms to control who sees your posts, personal information, and profile details.
The Wider Digital Trust Landscape
Thales found that the most trustworthy industries were found to be critical industries like banking (44%), healthcare (41%) and government services (37%). Thales noted that these are highly regulated industries which handle highly sensitive data.
More than four in five (87%) expect some level of privacy rights from the companies they interact with online.
Smooth digital experiences are also non-negotiable and 80% of customers expect a digital onboarding experience.
The survey suggested that customers in Japan are the most impatient about their digital interactions, with 15% giving up on frustrating online experiences after less than 30 seconds (compared to 9% globally).
Recommendations for Increasing Digital Trust
The Thales report set out six recommendations where businesses can introduce certain controls in the process to maintain the balance between security and user experience. These include:
- Risk-based authentication
- Passkeys and passwordless authentication
- Progressive profiling
- Bring your own identity
- Consent and preference management
- Modern Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM) solutions
“Ultimately, trust is not easily earned nor quickly regained. It requires sustained effort, genuine transparency, and a willingness to listen and adapt. As Facebook enters its third decade, it’s imperative for all social media companies to prioritize trust-building initiatives to ensure a safer, more accountable digital environment for all users,” Howes commented.
Meta was approached for comment by Infosecurity Magazine but no response was received at the time of writing.
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