Many Americans have responded to Facebook’s ongoing privacy and disinformation controversies by reducing their usage of the social media platform. Others have responded by deleting the Facebook app entirely, a new study insists.
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 54 percent of Facebook users ages 18 and older have adjusted their privacy settings in the wake of revelations that Facebook repeatedly failed to protect consumer data as it was shared and abused by a myriad of Facebook partners, including political analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. The study also notes that around 42 percent of Facebook users have chosen to take a break from the social platform of several weeks or more, with a quarter of users choosing to delete the Facebook app from their phones entirely in the last year.
Pew found that age largely determined whether or not users were likely to delete Facebook entirely, with 44 percent of younger users (ages 18-27) having deleted the app in recent months, compared with just 12 percent of users 65 or older. However, older users in turn are far more likely to have adjusted their privacy settings in the last year, Pew noted.
Facebook made numerous changes to its privacy policies earlier this year after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This included making it easier for users to download a copy of the data Facebook has collected, though Pew notes that only nine percent of Facebook users have taken them up on the offer. “Despite their relatively small size as a share of the Facebook population, these users are highly privacy-conscious,” wrote Pew researcher Andrew Perrin. “Roughly half of the users who have downloaded their personal data from Facebook (47 percent) have deleted the app from their cell phone, while 79 percent have elected to adjust their privacy settings.” Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The findings (the methodology for which is available here) come from a survey of 4,594 U.S. adults conducted between May 29 and June 11 of this year. The results were released on the same day that Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding ongoing criticism of the company’s moderation and privacy policies. Facebook has faced a steady stream of criticism not only for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but for initially threatening to sue news outlets that reported on it. The platform has also repeatedly come under fire for failing to thwart abuse of its platform to spread noxious disinformation everywhere from the United States to the Philippines. How much pain these scandals have actually inflicted on Facebook remains a point of contention. The company’s market value has largely recovered in the months since the scandal broke, and another study conducted last May by Reuters/Ipsos found that only a quarter of Facebook users reduced platform usage or quit in the wake of the Cambridge kerfuffle.
Still, while Facebook has continually promised to learn from its mistakes and protect end users from such abuse moving forward, it’s clear many believe that simply eliminating Facebook from their lives entirely is a quicker and and more efficient solution.