7 September, 2018
Young Americans are logging out of Facebook, upping their privacy, or deleting its phone app altogether.
A new survey by the Pew Research Center found that most adults surveyed had curbed their Facebook use or adjusted their privacy settings in the past year. The survey followed revelations that political consulting company Cambridge Analytica had scraped the personal information of approximately 87 million Facebook users for use in targeted advertising. Of the 4,594 Pew survey respondents, young adults were the most likely to unplug from platform, with 44 percent of Facebook users ages 18 to 29 saying they’d deleted the app from their phone, although the survey did not ask whether respondents had deleted their accounts, too.
The Pew survey was conducted from May 29 through June 11, two months after a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower first came forward to accuse the company of improperly amassing Facebook user data and converting the information into psychological profiles to use in targeted political ads. The fallout led Cambridge Analytica’s closure, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg giving a congressional testimony on the scandal.
The survey asked respondents whether, in the past year, they had either edited their Facebook privacy settings, taken a break from the platform for several weeks, or deleted the app from their phone.
Facebook’s oldest users were its most loyal, the survey found. Facebook users ages 65 above were the least likely to adjust their privacy options, with only 33 percent of respondents saying they’d tweaked the settings in the past year. Facebook users ages 18 to 49, meanwhile, had overwhelmingly moved for more private accounts, with 64 percent of respondents updating their settings.
Those younger users were most likely to purge Facebook from their phones, with 44 percent of respondents ages 18 to 29 saying they’d deleted the app. Once again, the oldest Facebook users remained plugged in, with only 12 percent removing the app from their phones.
The survey also focused on the most privacy-conscious Facebook users, who use a Facebook tool that allowed them to download all their personal data. The program, which Facebook launched after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, allowed users to view all the information Facebook had amassed on them. Few users opted into the program, the Pew survey found, but those who did were more likely to curb their Facebook use after viewing the results.
“Around one-in-ten Facebook users (9%) have downloaded the personal data about them available on Facebook,” the Pew survey found. “But despite their relatively small size as a share of the Facebook population, these users are highly privacy-conscious. Roughly half of the users who have downloaded their personal data from Facebook (47%) have deleted the app from their cellphone, while 79% have elected to adjust their privacy settings.”
Despite debunked conservative claims that Facebook is censoring right-wing posts, Republicans were no more likely to delete the app or take a break from Facebook than Democrats, the survey found.
But when it came to permanently logging off, Americans of all ages remained plugged into the social network. Approximately 40 percent of adults ages 30 and above said they’d taken a several-week break from the site in the past year.
Even the privacy-minded young adults were likely to stay online. 47 percent of under-30 adults said they’d taken a several-week break from the site.