The Facebook Cambridge Analytica revelations changed the way people in the US think about online privacy. And it should come as no surprise that many have grown wary over the mishandling of personal information.
Nearly a year later, a majority of US internet users said that Facebook sharing data with Cambridge Analytica raised some level of concern over how their information is used online, per survey findings from text message marketing company SlickText.
But, over this past year, have these concerns manifested into action? Here are five stats that show what US internet users have—and have not—done to address privacy concerns since Cambridge Analytica.
Internet users are clearing cookies and sharing less on social media
At the bare minimum, many internet users are monitoring their browser data and the information they share on social media, according to an October 2018 survey by Norton Lifelock and The Harris Poll.
Around one-third of US internet users have paid closer attention to “Terms & Conditions” policies and changed the default privacy settings on their devices. But fewer have taken more drastic measures, like using encrypted email and virtual private network (VPN) protection.
Ad blockers continue to gain popularity
While the use of ad blockers didn’t see a significant jump in the wake of Cambridge Analytica, its persistent user growth is indicative of a rising trend among consumers who don’t want analytics tools tracking their online footprint. We forecast that more than a quarter of US internet users will browse on a device that has an ad blocker enabled in 2019, and one in three millennial internet users will use an ad blocker.
The 'pay for privacy' concept hasn’t taken off
In March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a privacy-focused vision for the future of the platform. This has led some critics to claim that if he is serious about his commitment to privacy, then Facebook users should be able to pay for the service with dollars instead of data.
But most US internet users don’t think they should have to pay for social media providers to protect their information, according to Norton Lifelock and The Harris Poll.
In fact, majorities of users also feel that they shouldn't have to pay for traditional businesses like retailers, healthcare providers and financial institutions to protect their information.
Nearly one-third of US internet users are still willing to sacrifice privacy for convenience
A rising fear among marketers in the past year has been that consumers will no longer see sacrificing privacy for convenience as worthwhile. Just 32% of US internet users said they are willing to make that exchange, according to a January 2019 survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of USA Today and the Charles Koch Institute.
Even fewer respondents (27%) said they believe there is no harm in allowing companies to track their buying habits or common locations.
Overall, outlooks for user growth and time spent on social media are still healthy
We expect that 61.9% of people in the US will regularly use social media this year. User growth along with time spent per day on social networks (which will grow 1.9% in 2019) indicate that privacy concerns have not led consumers to take significant action.
“The average Facebook user in the US did not move away from the social network in the wake of Cambridge Analytica,” eMarketer forecasting analyst Monica Peart said. “In fact, during this time, Facebook continued to attract users—especially among those over the age of 35.”
We estimate Facebook will have 171.5 million users in 2019, accounting for more than half of the US population.