A Mere 20% Of Americans Trust TikTok With Their Data

The first person I remember warning me that my online data was being stolen and leaked was a classmate during a “Digital Poetics” class in college. Cutting off the professor’s impassioned lesson about developing poems via AI (artificial intelligence), Brad spoke of us being tracked on our smartphones, listened to, watched.

Eventually, Brad raised his laptop like Rafiki held up Simba in "The Lion King," urging us to cover our webcams before cyberthieves ransacked our lives.

Little did I know that trillions of everyday users’ records have been breached over the past decade. I guess Brad had a point.

While users’ data privacy has been a major concern for years, the Federal Communication Commission's recent request to Apple and Google to remove TikTok -- which collects user data and sends it to a server located in China without user consent -- from their app stores has brought the topic to the forefront.

Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at leading privacy service NordVPN, said in a recent statement that because of the app’s connection to China, “some governments even consider TikTok’s access to and collection of millions of users’ sensitive data a national security threat.”

The news raises a crucial question for marketers: How sure are Americans about the security of social media apps like TikTok or other software stored on their laptops, phones, and consoles?

According to a new survey from NordVPN, only 20% of Americans trust TikTok with their privacy and data.  And, next to Facebook (34%), one third of Americans say TikTok is the social media app they trust least with their privacy and data.

Overall, NordVPN’s survey -- which includes 1,022 people in the U.S. 18 years or olders -- shows that Americans have much more faith in the privacy of the devices they use to access the internet (Apple, Samsung, Google) than the software they’re using to communicate online.

For example, Facebook Messenger ranked as the most-trusted messaging app for privacy -- but it was still trusted by only less than half (47%) of Americans.

Messaging apps respondents trusted most after Messenger included iMessage (43%), WhatsApp (38%), Telegram (36%), and Snapchat (34%).

Meanwhile, 74% reported that WeChat was the least trusted for privacy, followed by Viber (73%), Discord (73%), Signal (68%) and Snapchat (66%).

For browsers, the most trusted were Google Chrome (69%), Microsoft Edge (60%), Firefox (58%), Safari (51%), and DuckDuckGo (40%), which offers this headline on its main page: “Tired of being tracked online? We can help.”

The least trusted browsers included Vivaldi and Tor (75%), then Opera (70%), Brave (72%), and DuckDuckGo (60%).

(Who knew there were so many browsers to choose from?)

NordVPN also asked its test group to respond to apps used for video meetings, a service that skyrocketed over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most trusted is Zoom (56%), which doesn’t come as a surprise, as it is likely the most used as well. Teams tied (56%), followed by Google Meet (54%). The least trusted video meeting apps included Slack (75%), Intermedia AnyMeeting (72%), Ring Central (70%), then Go to Meeting and Cisco Webex (67%).

Again, hardware used to access the internet scored higher on the trust spectrum with users, as the iPhone by Apple ranked most-trusted (70%), then smartphones by Google(67%), and Samsung (66%).

Less popular smartphones received active distrust, with 76% of respondents distrusting the privacy of OnePlus, then Huawei (72%), Motorola (56%), and LG (46%).

These findings highlight a key trend found in the survey: People erroneously think popularity equals safety.

“Some popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger do not use end-to-end encryption, so the brand and third-parties theoretically can read your text, which means your communications are not secure,” said Markuson. “However, less popular apps like Signal do encrypt your text, but there are less family and friends using those apps.”

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