Three-quarters of Facebook users have remained as active, or even more active, on the platform since the company’s recent privacy scandal, a joint Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed.
According to responses to the survey, Facebook’s reputation has suffered little among users. The poll comprised over 2,000 American Facebook users over the age of 18, and found that half of those surveyed had not changed the way they used the site, and another quarter said they were using it more.
Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities told Reuters that Facebook is lucky the scandal revolves around data being used for political ads and not for “nefarious” purposes.
“I have yet to read an article that says a single person has been harmed by the breach,” he said. “Nobody’s outraged on a visceral level.”
The company’s recent privacy scandal first made headlines a few months back, when it came to light that the analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the profile data of over 50 million Facebook accounts through a quiz posted by an academic, who claimed it was just for research purposes.
Since then, Facebook has been dragged through the mud by the media as accusations of mishandling user data continue to pile up. Governments have also taken action against the social media juggernaut.
The United States and Canada have both launched state-wide and national investigations into Facebook’s practices; CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been called to testify before U.S. Congress and U.K. Parliament; and most recently, Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office is backing an American academic’s effort to obtain his personal data from SCL Group, which includes Cambridge Analytica.
Despite the backlash, however, user growth does not appear to have been affected. In its first quarter financial results, Facebook said the number of monthly users in the United States and Canada rose to 241 million on March 31 from 239 million on Dec. 31, growth that was roughly in line with recent years.
In an attempt to make reparations with users and regulators, Facebook has introduced a number of features and updates to privacy policies in recent weeks. The most recent of these includes a “clear browsing history” on the site.
“This feature will enable you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, delete this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward,” the company said in a separate blog post.
While many seem unaffected by the privacy concerns, a segment of Facebook users is taking action to protect their information. According to the poll, the one quarter of Facebook users whose activity hasn’t stayed the same or increased has either gone down or ceased entirely.
Although user activity seems to be returning to normal a few months after the initial story broke, an Angus Reid Institute/Global News poll released in the middle of March told a very different story about users’ trust in Facebook’s platform.
“It seems like this time there’s been a real reckoning with Facebook,” said Alex Hanna, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and a social media expert, in conversation with Global News. The Angus Reid poll was released on March 26, which revealed that almost three-quarters of Canadians would change the way they use Facebook as the massive data scandal plaguing the company continues to unfold.
In addition to varying levels of comfort using the platform, the recent Reuters/Ipsos poll — which also surveyed Instagram and Twitter users — showed that more Facebook users claimed to know how to guard their personal information on the site than users of other social media platforms, such as Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.
It also found that 74 per cent of Facebook users said they were aware of their current privacy settings, and 78 percent said they knew how to change them.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 2,194 adults, including 1,938 Facebook users, 1,167 Twitter users and 1,237 Instagram users. It has a credibility interval of 3 percentage points, meaning that the results could vary in either direction by that amount.
— With files from Reuters