The Cambridge Analytica scandal alerted millions of social media users around the globe to how easily their data could be harvested and used for purposes they neither consent to nor imagined.

But while the scandal sparked a wave of new privacy legislation around the globe, the movement has had little impact on consumers’ social media usage.

A new report produced by Almeida Insights has found the majority of Australians don’t care about data privacy, while another cohort feels largely powerless to stop their data being fed into the online ecosystem.

The 2020 Australian Social Media Data Privacy Report is based on a survey of 2,150 Australians who have at least one social media account, 83 per cent of respondents use social media at least daily.

The report found there is a significant knowledge gap between what data Australians believe they are giving social media access to, and what is actually being retained and used.

That dynamic is contributing to Australians’ acceptance of social media network’s data harvesting, particularly among 18 to 35 year olds.

Only 29 per cent of respondents are extremely concerned about data privacy and feel that there should be greater scrutiny around it. And 38 per cent of those are over the age of 55.

The report also found there was an ignorance of how personal data is used and monetised, and a pervasive feeling of helplessness in the face of daunting terms and conditions, and convoluted user agreements. 42 per cent overall of respondents worry about their data privacy but feel like they can’t do anything about it.

This trusting attitude likely stems from simplistic understanding that Australians have of what data is being captured and used by social media, the report argues.

84 per cent of users admitted to not reading the T&Cs before signing up to a social media platform. However  67 per cent of Australian’s believe they understand what they agree to in terms of how their data and information is retained and used by a social media provider when signing up.

“When asked what personal information they believe they give access to social media organisations on sign-up, off their device, 64 per cent of users believe it is demographic information such as age and gender. Only a third of respondents believe they give access to device location, media files and photos, and contacts, and 1 in 4 believe they provide access to their camera, microphone, and internet history,” the report states.

When asked if social media has the ability to influence an individual’s opinions, perspectives and future behaviours, 79 per cent said yes. But they think it’s happening to someone else: only 17 per cent of overall users surveyed indicated that the feeling that their views were being swayed would lead them to reconsider how they use social media.

AAccording to Alice Almeida Founder, Almeida Insights, while the study was done for users rather than brands as such, there are still lessons for marketers.

It is important to understand a users sentiment towards targeted advertising, she said. “Whilst 69 per cent believe they hand over their personal data to social media who then uses it to target them with relevant advertising, 54 per cent state that a feeling of being watched and being served very personalised advertising is a strong enough reason for them to reconsider how they use social media.”

The other consideration is that users tend to blame the brand rather than the social media platform when they are concerned about how the data us used.

“It’s a very quick way to lose a customer.”

Almeida told Which-50, “Social media is a fantastic way for brands to reach audiences, but trust is starting to wane across social media so brands need to tread carefully with that.”

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