Americans Don’t Trust Tech Companies to Always Do the Right Thing

Americans have trouble trusting technology companies, and a slim majority think that more regulations on these firms is a good idea, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

Some 72 percent of Americans think that tech companies “can be trusted to do the right thing some of the time or hardly ever,” and 14 percent believe such firms “can hardly ever be trusted,” read the report accompanying the survey data. Contrast that with the 3 percent who believe that tech companies will do what’s right pretty much all the time.

“When asked about the appropriate role of government in regulating major technology companies, around half of U.S. adults (51 percent) believe these companies should be regulated more than they are now,” the report added. “Around one-in-ten (9 percent) feel they should be regulated less than they are now, while 38 percent say their current level of regulation is appropriate.”

When it comes to data protection, the numbers are just as stark: only 24 percent of respondents believe that tech firms do enough to protect user data; a full 75 percent exhibited a higher degree of mistrust. The viewpoints more pessimistic as users get older, according to the report: “Larger shares of older adults think major technology companies often fail to anticipate how their products and services will impact society, that these companies have too much power and influence in today’s society, and that they should be regulated more than they are currently.”

(The survey, conducted between May 29 and June 11, queried 4,594 U.S. adults.)

What does this mean for tech pros? Whether you’re building an app, a company, or a website, you need to build user trust, especially when it comes to their personal data; it’s clear from Pew’s survey that many folks default to mistrust when it comes to anything tech-related.

How do you build user trust? First, don’t get breached; that often leads people to abandon a service entirely, according to a study done earlier this year by Magnify Money. While that’s certainly easier said than done—there are some very smart hackers out there—following best security practices is a good way to keep your infrastructure hardened.

Catastrophic breaches aside, the key to building trust is communication. In past years, it was typical for a tech firm to frame their privacy policy in dense legalese. That’s no longer acceptable to many users; placing your privacy policy (and what you do with user data) up-front, with clear terminology, is vital.

In a similar vein, consider issuing an ethics statement of some sort, especially if your product leverages user data. Users want to know what you will (and won’t) do, and where you draw the lines. The effort is worth it: Once you have trust, you have loyal users.

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2 Responses to “Americans Don’t Trust Tech Companies to Always Do the Right Thing”

  1. As someone who worked for one of the largest tech companies in the world, I can categorically say that from my personal experience, that company cannot be trusted. Over and over, ethics were blatantly violated, and if the lawyer is correct, the law was broken too. How did the company respond when I tried to escalate the problems (via my chain of command and then HR) so that they could be resolved? They retaliated against me and others who wanted to do the right thing. To the company, money was more important than ethics.