New National Poll: Privacy, Facebook, and Cambridge Analytica
With Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress this week, the issue of privacy on tech platforms is center-stage. Echelon Insights polled 1,000 registered voters nationally from April 2 to April 6 to gauge their confidence in large tech companies and financial institutions to protect their personal data, as well as their level of concern about hypothetical data breach scenarios involving a number of companies and financial institutions.
Americans Are Mostly Confident Their Private Data is Secure — Except with Facebook and Credit Bureaus
Following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, fully 52% of registered voters have very little or no confidence in Facebook’s ability to secure their personal information, compared to 23% who have a great deal or a lot of confidence, and 22% who have some confidence. Facebook rates worse on this measure than the other major institution to undergo a major data incident or breach in the last year — credit bureaus (37% have no confidence or little confidence, versus 26% who have at least quite a lot).
When it comes to data protection, registered voters have the most confidence in Amazon (54% have at least quite a lot of confidence, vs. 16% who have no or little confidence), and their bank (49% to 16%), followed by Apple (37% to 23%) and Google (37% to 28%).
But Voters Think Financial Data Breaches Are Worse Than Tech Breaches
There’s another dimension to the privacy equation: How much do consumers expect their information to remain private, and how seriously would they view a hypothetical breach by a tech or financial services company? Overall, supermajorities would be at least very concerned if any of their data were compromised across both tech companies and financial institutions — with at least 61% saying they would be extremely or very concerned. But on this question, a financial data breach triggers the most concern — with both 74% rating a banking or credit bureau breach as extremely or very concerning. Tech companies are closely clustered in the rate of high concern — from a high of 66% for Amazon to a low of 61% for Apple, with Facebook somewhere in the middle at 63%.
Facebook & Financial Institutions Sit at the Privacy Risk Frontier
By combining the level of concern consumers have for their data remaining private, and their confidence in companies to keep that data private, we can plot what we call the “privacy risk frontier” — identifying which companies have the greatest downside risk in the current privacy debate.
At the Privacy Risk Frontier are companies like banks, which feature high consumer confidence in data protection with extreme concern about a potential breach if it were to occur, and companies like Facebook, where confidence is currently very low, but perceptions of risk are also somewhat lower.
Furthest from the Privacy Risk Frontier is Apple — which has touted its privacy-friendly policies in recent days. Google and Amazon are also relatively well positioned, with Amazon enjoying the highest overall level of confidence that private data will be protected.
How Closely Are Voters Following the Cambridge Analytica Scandal?
When asked how closely respondents have been following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a majority (53%) say they have been following the story very or somewhat closely. 28% of respondents say they have not been following the story closely, while 13% have not heard of the story at all.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats report following the Cambridge Analytica scandal slightly more closely, with 62% of Democrats following the story very or somewhat closely versus 56% Republicans. The greatest partisan breakdown is reflected in 2016 leanings, with 68% of Clinton voters following the story closely and just 54% of Trump voters following the story closely.
Privacy Worries Differ Along Age and Partisan Lines
While Democrats may be watching the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook story more closely, when compared to Republicans they still have more confidence in the embattled social media giant. Fewer Republicans (25%) express confidence in Facebook than Democrats (29%) and Republicans are more concerned about the security of their information on Facebook, with 68% of Republicans extremely or very concerned, compared to 63% of Democrats. This partisan ratio flips when it comes to financial institutions — with Republicans more confident in privacy protections than Democrats.
This partisan fracture may, in part, be driven by respondents 65 and older, who consistently respond with lower levels of confidence in all tested institutions, except for banks. This is particularly pronounced on Facebook, where 45% of those 65 and older say they have no confidence in Facebook versus 28% of respondents overall and 13% of respondents 18 to 29. Similarly, populations 65 and older are distinctly more concerned over the safety of their personal data with Facebook — 53% of this group are extremely concerned, compared to 33% of respondents 18 to 29.