A recent global report points to increasing privacy and security concerns that have to be balanced against social and economic needs.

As Big Data technology increases the collection of data for intelligence, it appears that global Big Tech firms have not been earning the trust of consumers.

According to a white paper by Blackbox Research covering over 24,000 social media users across 20 countries (minimum of 1,000 respondents per country), a significant portion of respondents did not trust companies to handle their data and protect their privacy even though 73% expected their data to be used by social media companies to keep them engaged with websites and digital applications. 

 Australia (82%), France (82%), Germany (75%), and the United Kingdom (75%) respondents were most likely to find the use of personal data to push certain forms of advertising as ‘intrusive’. Japanese and Australian social media users stood out as the least comfortable across all three categories of data.

What findings stood out?

Meanwhile, respondents in China (43%), Thailand (45%), and Indonesia (50%) were the most comfortable with all types of data being collected and shared by social media companies. Overall, digital natives in the sample populations were much less concerned with data and security than older users, with 19% of those aged 40 and under feeling that this form of data use was of any great concern. The number rose to 55% among those over 40.


Chart of the perceived influence that social media companies and platforms had on respondents’ local/domestic politics
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents believed social media can be a force for good, with Filipinos (84%) and Russians (71%) feeling the strongest on this.
  • When asked specifically on its impact on national politics, 29% of respondents thought social media can be a negative influence, with Americans (54%) and Brazilians (52%) seeing the most negative impact on political outcomes. Respondents in Australia (46%), France (39%), Malaysia (35%), Thailand (34%), the United Kingdom (32%), and Indonesia (32%) expressed similar concerns, with a sizeable proportion of social media users viewing social media as a negative influence on their respective country’s politics.
  • Regarding global brand perceptions, American tech companies still dominated, but Chinese tech players were catching up.
  • Chinese tech giants were gradually growing their footprint among respondent perceptions outside of the domestic market. 

Commenting on the findings, the firm’s CEO, David Black noted that Big Tech needs to pay attention to shifting global sentiments, and underlined the challenges of balancing data governance, privacy, and access in data-driven economies. “Regulators are no longer leaving social media firms to their self-governance models. From ‘antitrust’ conversations in the United States to Australia clamping down on digital platforms to protect local media outlets, governments globally are coming down hard on Big Tech in more ways than one.”

However, he said, while users are distrustful of social media companies’ influence, they still rely on these platforms in their day-to-day lives. “These dynamics will continue to evolve, as the first generation of digital natives becomes the leading voice of today’s global population. Regulators will need to tread carefully and avoid over-correcting. If they do, they risk not only a backlash from devoted users, but also disenfranchisement in those for whom social media platforms provide great social mobility opportunities.”