User trust in Facebook had plummeted before Cambridge Analytica scandal

It might have more than 18 million users in Canada, but Facebook has some work to do if it wants to regain their trust.

According to the third annual CanTrust Index released Tuesday by Proof Inc. (formerly Environics Communications), trust in Facebook fell from 51 per cent in 2017 to 34 per cent in 2018, with distrust of the company consistent across all ages, genders and geography across Canada.

“Trust is the lifeblood of any organization or brand, and a company’s inability to quickly react and respond in a crisis is problematic given the immediacy of today’s news cycle,” Proof CEO Bruce MacLellan said in an April 10 statement. “Though our study was fielded before Facebook’s recent privacy scandal, the company has been slow to manage this issue – which could further damage their brand and lead to a further decline in consumer trust.”

It’s likely that during the survey period (between Jan. 18 and Feb. 5, 2018) Canadians’ trust in Facebook was still affected by the 2016 U.S. election, since according to the CanTrust Index trust in Facebook’s news feed fell from 31 per cent in 2016, to 19 per cent in 2017, and now sits at 18 per cent.

Overall trust in social media has been stuck in the low twenties for the past three years, and is currently stagnant at 22 per cent, Proof said, noting that despite the trust deficit, 76 per cent of Canadians still report themselves as weekly Facebook users.

Social media not the only poorly trusted tech sector

Despite the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) to Canada’s overall economy, the sector is even less trusted than Facebook, Proof found.

According to the CanTrust Index, only 25 per cent of Canadians say they trust the artificial intelligence industry, with Canadians between 18 and 24 years old showing the most trust (a whopping 33 per cent) and Canadians over 50 showing the least (18 per cent).

“With the rise of the surveillance society, social media platforms and the AI sector now face a trust tipping point,” MacLellan said in the April 10 release. “As algorithms track online behaviour, listening tools pattern the words and tone of conversations, and social media platforms share personal data, society will need to build consensus on what is acceptable and permitted.”

Surprisingly, trust levels are also low for AI’s perceived impact on Canada’s economy: Only 38 per cent of Canadians trust AI to contribute to the country’s economy in a positive way, and only 37 per cent trust AI to improve their experience as consumers.

It is worth noting, however, that 30 per cent of Canadians reported neither trusting nor distrusting AI when it came to its impact on consumers or the economy.

“Artificial intelligence can do a lot of things from medical diagnoses to improving search engine results, but it has work to do as an industry to educate the public of its uses and many benefits,” Proof senior vice president Vanessa Eaton said in the April 10 release. “At this critical juncture, companies should act quickly to build trust, swaying these neutral consumers in their favour.”

Trust higher in public institutions than private

Elsewhere, the index found that Canadians trust the not-for-profit and public sectors far more than private, with 61 per cent of Canadians trusting the not-for-profit sector “to do what is right for Canada, Canadians and our society”; 63 per cent trusting hospitals and postsecondary institutions; and 64 per cent trusting the police. Small and medium sized businesses were trusted by 45 per cent of Canadians, governments by 39 per cent, and large corporations by only 28 per cent.

Proof also noted that businesses might want to pay attention to new Canadians when seeking new audiences, noting that immigrants who have lived in Canada for fewer than 15 years are more likely to trust everything from leaders and institutions, to brands and content.

“This 15-year window of trust presents a marketing opportunity for many organizations looking to build rapport with this growing population, by understanding and reflecting back the experiences of new Canadians in their communications,” the company said in its April 10 release.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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