To what extent do Americans trust tech companies to act responsibly with their personal data? January poll results from CivicScience indicate that the public remains heavily split on the topic, reflecting significant differences across age demographics. 

As a whole, trust is mediocre at best. Asked to rate their trust in tech companies to protect their personal privacy, U.S. adults are just as likely to answer that they have ‘medium trust’ (42%) as ‘low or no trust’ (42%). A mere 16% say they have ‘high’ trust in companies such as Google and Apple to keep their data safe.

Interestingly, tracking of quarterly averages shows that trust has improved over the past 12 months, albeit marginally. From 2021-Q3 to 2023-Q1, ‘low trust’ fell three points while ‘medium trust’ climbed three points. Those with ‘high’ trust remained the same.

Young adults typically report much higher trust in big tech companies, with Gen Z reporting the greatest trust. The age group is the near opposite of the general population’s averages – 33% have high trust and 46% have medium trust. On the other extreme, Baby Boomers are the least trusting, with 54% having low or no trust.

The greatest activity in the trust data occurred among consumers aged 35-54. Trust in tech companies has improved since the third quarter of 2021 for this age group (low trust fell seven points / medium trust climbed five points). Comparatively, there was no significant change in trust among adults under age 35.

While it’s uncertain what led to the slight shift in trust seen above, the bigger question is how trust translates to consumer behavior. It seems like a no-brainer that people who trust tech companies to protect their data are more likely to use certain products or services from those companies, although trust is complex and nuanced. For example, data show social media users are indeed more likely than non-users to trust tech companies, yet a significant percentage of users average on the lower end of the trust meter.

In another instance, while people who own a smart home automation product (such as a smart speaker or thermostat) are more likely than non-owners to trust tech companies, 25% of owners have low or no trust that companies like Google or Amazon are doing a good job of protecting their personal data and 47% have medium trust.

All in all, a company’s trustworthiness is important to Americans – a recent study learned that transparency and trustworthiness was the leading decider when making a purchasing decision, more so than employee treatment, political opinion, or sustainability practices. Even though young adults are more trusting of the tech industry to protect their data, the majority remain wary, and future negative experiences could harm the trust that does exist. Building better trust through responsible data practices can only be in the best interest of businesses everywhere.

CivicScience can help brands and businesses better understand the connection between trust and consumer behavior. Book a demo.