Americans don’t trust the companies whose products are used by billions of people each day—but some mega-firms are better than others at convincing customers that they aren’t awful.
At least, according to a poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, which asked 1,122 adults, of which 1,058 were defined as internet users, to rate how much they trust various tech companies.
The results, with a few notable exceptions, were not so favorable. Based on the survey, 72% of internet users don’t trust Facebook to handle their personal information. When asked directly what impact Facebook has on society, only 10% of respondents said positive while 56% said negative.
This should come as no surprise; Facebook’s reputation has tarnished over the years, taking perhaps its largest hit during the Cambridge Analytica scandal when at least 87 million profiles were compromised.
Other Meta-owned services, including Instagram and WhatsApp, also fared poorly on the personal data question, garnering only 19% and 15% trust, respectively. Rounding out the bottom of the list is Chinese-owned TikTok, with 12%.
Coming in with a 35% rating, the Google-owned YouTube is particularly notable because opinions about Google were split down the middle whereas its video platform garnered considerably less trust. One reason could be the 2019 lawsuit fining Google up to $200 million after YouTube was found to be collecting data on young users without parental consent in order to serve them ads.
Alongside Google in the lukewarm category are Microsoft and Apple, both of which barely found their way to the positive end of the trust scale. And perhaps most surprising in this survey is how much people trust Amazon. The Jeff Bezos-led retail giant is trusted at least “a good amount” by 53% of participants. This is a good time to remind everyone about the eavesdropping controversy Amazon was embroiled in a few years back when the company was forced to add an option for users to opt out of having their recordings reviewed by random humans. Clearly, Amazon’s spying tech doesn’t keep everyone else up at night, so let’s just hope the company’s data security practices are more reliable than its cloud service.
This survey also reveals how people feel about whether the government should regulate mega tech corporations, like Google, Apple, or Facebook. Interestingly, 64% said the government should be more involved while 35% disagreed (1% had no opinion). Those numbers are almost the inverse of what a 2012 Pew Research Center survey found when asking the same question. Increasing support for government intervention is bipartisan, with 53% of Republicans in support versus 30% from before, and 82% of Democrats, up from 45%.
The Republican party is traditionally against big government, so the high percentage of those wanting regulators to step in suggests a belief that companies are failing to self-regulate and will continue to do so. Getting to the heart of it is a survey question asking whether companies provide enough control over the info they track about you. Only 20% said yes; 79% said no.
Tech companies were brought into the public spotlight last year when Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, and Jeff Bezos stood before Congress and tried to convince The House Judiciary Committee that their growth isn’t a result of being a monopoly. Since then, governments around the world have considered ways to break up big tech and hold them more accountable. It seems the more we learn about how these companies operate, the more unanimous public opinion becomes that something needs to be done.