Facebook has been possibly the most popular social media website among people of all age groups. However, of late, Americans have been stepping away from this platform, says a survey by Pew Research Center.

According to the survey, users have shown their rising concerns over the breach of privacy related to Facebook. Over 54% of adults (aged 18 and over) have said they have revised their privacy settings in the past year and 42% said they took a long break from Facebook.

This study was conducted after the Cambridge Analytica revelations. The company faced a firestorm over the collection of user data of millions of unsuspecting Facebook users. After the incident, Facebook faced scrutiny from lawmakers.

The researchers studied 4,594 people between May and June this year. It was conducted after Mark Zuckerberg had to face a Congressional hearing about user security and privacy issues.

Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that worked on the Trump campaign. To manipulate the voter behavior, they used raw data from millions of Facebook user profiles. Due to their unethical practices, the company was forced to shut down after the revelation of this incident.

Here’s how it worked

Cambridge Analytica created a Facebook app that had a quiz-like interface. When a user participated in the quiz, their data was revealed to the company. Facebook API had a loophole that was used by the political firm to gather raw data. This lets the company use not just the data of quiz takers but also of people in their friends’ lists.

So only Cambridge Analytica is to be blamed here, right? Well, actually, Facebook was aware of this loophole for years but they didn’t take any action to fix it. Not just that, Facebook denied any such breach and claimed that no systems were infiltrated. This angered people and made them step away from the social media platform.

There are allegations that Cambridge Analytica tried to use this data to influence elections in favor of Trump. The company suffered huge losses due to the negative publicity and had to eventually shut down its operations.

While Mark Zuckerberg faced a Congressional committee, explained his point, and tried to assure them that his company is doing everything to keep user data private, it seems that users are not very convinced. The recent Pew study verifies this.

It has been a rough year for Facebook and with this recent study, it shows that people, especially in the US, have lost faith in this social media behemoth.

Changing outlook

It’s not really surprising that Facebook users in the US have changed their outlook towards the platform. The use of someone’s data to influence their voting decision is a major breach of privacy and they’re not happy about it. People have started getting serious about their privacy and have not taken kindly to the scandal.

The Pew research has shown that the change in US people’s relationship with Facebook is pretty evident. While a large number have changed their privacy settings, as discussed earlier, almost 26% of them have deleted the Facebook application from their phone.

Pew research center showing data about Americans uninstalling Facebook
Pew Research Center

With almost 74% of users confirming that they have taken some sort of action for their privacy on Facebook (such as changing the setting or leaving the platform altogether), this is certainly not a good news for the social media giant.

This shows that privacy is very much a concern among the general public, unlike what Zuckerberg thinks. In an interview, Zuckerberg said that he’d want everyone’s information to be public because people don’t care about privacy. The recent Pew research demonstrates how wrong his assumptions were. The research also showed that young users are more conscious of the importance of their privacy.

Less than 10% of users have downloaded their personal data that’s available on Facebook. The download data option was much publicized after the Cambridge Analytica incident was revealed. However, the research shows that not many people trust that it’s a good option to stay protected.

While people might not earlier be aware of the importance of data privacy, now they have woken up to the fact that their Facebook data can be used to influence elections and have realized the associated risks. This has made them leave the social media giant. Some did it temporarily and some permanently.

Losing faith

The Pew research has shown that people have lost faith in Facebook and feel that they don’t really have control over their own data. While Facebook claims that you can download your data to see what their company stores, not many people trust them. This doesn’t sound very good for the company.

Since there is a lack of transparency around the algorithms used by social media giants, people have started having trust issues. However, the survey didn’t find any correlation between someone’s willingness to leave Facebook and their political preference. Democrats as well as Republicans have shown their distrust in Facebook and are trying to cut back the use of this social media giant.

What this means for you

You might still be active on Facebook but the fact is that several people have left and many are leaving this platform. As there is a paradigm shift in process, you might want to create a presence on other platforms. Facebook has started to lose its charm and soon might become a thing of the past. It happened with Myspace too. And Myspace wasn’t the only giant to fall. Things change rapidly.

For example, Netflix was a DVD supplying company a few years ago. Orkut was an active platform by Google. There have been major changes in the interests of people and what’s happening right now just might be another transformation.

Users are now more aware of the importance of data privacy and have started taking necessary measures to stay safe. If you’re a privacy conscious user, here is an easy guide to help you maintain your online anonymity and privacy.

Meanwhile, in the US, people have been changing their relationship with Facebook and we can expect users from other countries to follow the suit. And even while you’re on Facebook, make sure you follow all safety guidelines. Don’t overshare your personal information and make sure you go through the privacy settings of your posts.

If you’re on Facebook for business, you might want to test other platforms for ads. Facebook ads are getting more expensive anyway. You can test the advertising potential of LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest. There are strong chances that these platforms might perform better than Facebook.