Trust in Social Media Security at All-time Low

Chris2d, via Wikimedia Commons
Most of us have a ton of personal info and private conversations over social networks. We share our deepest secrets with a true confidante, group photos that are too messy to even post publicly, or cute pictures of your dog with a hat on. You'd think that the networks that we're willing to divulge this trove of intimacy through would have to be pretty trustworthy, right? Well, apparently not, as an infographic from Craig Newmark over on Adweek's Social Times details how users' trust in social network security is basically nonexistent. Bet we still continue to spill our private lives over them, though.
In the survey, conducted as a follow up to a similar one performed in 2014, a number of fascinating trends regarding users' opinions of social media security became clear. The standout stat has to be that a staggering 96% of those surveyed 'don't have a lot of trust' that social networks will protect their privacy, representing a 3% drop in confidence since the last survey.
Unsurprisingly, older people had the least trust in these darn newfangled social webs, with 62% having 'very little or no trust.' Who could have guessed?
Trust levels correlate with how many social media sites someone uses, with 14% of those who regularly use 4 or above having 'a lot of trust.' This makes sense, although whether these users use more because they trust more or trust more because they use more is a bit of a conundrum. Let's go with a bit of both.
So what are the major concerns people have regarding how social networks handle their security? Well the top ranked worries were as follows:
  1. 80% - Concerned about downloading a virus or malware.
  2. 75% - Fear identity theft.
  3. 72% - Worried about tracking cookies (No, Facebook Grandma, not that type of cookies).
  4. 71% - Think too much data is being made public.
  5. 69% - Concerned about their email being hacked.
These are all legitimate concerns, although the high proportion of people that are worried about them reflects the general low level of trust that abounds.
Despite all this, usage of the social networks continued to blossom as trust declined, showing that the two trends seem to function independently of one another. Here are the top social networks used daily by the survey respondents (with their share two years ago and growth):
  1. Email - 84% (83% / +1)
  2. Facebook - 70% (68% / +2)
  3. Youtube - 36% (31% / +5)
  4. Twitter - 23% (21% / +2)
  5. Instagram - 21% (18% / +3)
  6. Google+ - 15% (14% / +1)
  7. Snapchat - 12% (10% / +2)
  8. LinkedIn - 10% (12% / -2)
  9. Tumblr - 8% (11% / -3)
  10. Vine - 8% (N/A)
  11. Tinder - 6% (N/A)
So there's been a general growth, except for poor LinkedIn and Tumblr. The fact that this growth is continuing despite the trust problems shows just how essential these apps are becoming to our everyday lives.
The social media networks themselves are aware of user opinions of security, and are always trying to implement new features and updates to improve them. From Facebook's raft of security and privacy options and bug bounty scheme, to Snapchat and Whatsapp trying to shore up their encryption methods. Yet it seems that users often don't delve deep enough into the settings to find and customise them. Which is strange, given how apparently concerned everyone is about their security. Perhaps their concern is legitimate, considering that the Federal Government now includes social media posts in its security clearance procedure. Not to mention whatever the NSA and GCHQ have stashed away in their shadowy archives. 
It's becoming increasingly difficult to draw the line between privacy and security at a time when our real and digital lives are beginning to overlap so considerably. Security thus has to be a high priority issue for social networks, and users are right to be concerned. It does appear that networks will continue to grow regardless, but as they march on, it might be best to make sure that march doesn't lead off a security cliff. Social media networks need to streamline the accessibility of their security options and improve their offerings so that in this ongoing trust exercise, users can close their eyes and trustingly fall backwards into the digital embrace of their media networks.

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