Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, April 8, 2020
Employees working at home have many options when it comes to staying in touch with coworkers and clients while working from home. With the sudden move to working from home, there was a sudden shift in market share. This MetaFAQs draws on the April 2020 MetaFacts Pulse Survey to identify which platforms employees have been using for their work-related and personal video communications, further split by video conferences versus video calls.
Most Americans value their privacy, although many have resigned themselves to having less, while others are taking steps to better safeguard theirs. Are privacy concerns a factor affecting the behavior or everyday Americans? Do attitudes and beliefs around privacy affect technology usage? Do Americans trust some brands more than others? How widely held is a need for online privacy?
To address these questions, we conducted a short survey among online Americans in May 2019 as part of the preparation for TUP/Technology User Profile 2019.
Our research results show that many online Americans are willing to live with inner conflict, finding a balance between their fears and their quest for convenience. Even those feeling strongly are still using systems they distrust.
The Innocent Need Not Worry – Agree?
An idea that’s been mentioned around privacy debates for more than 100 years goes something like: “why do you need privacy if you’ve done nothing wrong?” We asked respondents how strongly they agree or disagree. Their responses reveal a strong split among online Americans – more than any other question we asked in this survey. Nearly half (55%) disagreed or strongly disagreed that “Anyone who has done nothing wrong not worry about their privacy”. A smaller yet substantial number (37%) disagreed. There’s widespread and growing concern about online privacy, along with acceptance that online, nothing is really private.
Worry-Free Innocents are Bigger Tech Adopters
The strength of belief in “nothing to hide” exposes a wide split among online Americans in usage rates of certain technology: namely home security cameras and voice assistants. Among the “Innocent need not worry”, the use of home security cameras (such as from Arlo) are being used at more than three times the rate than among the “Innocent should worry.” There have been many widely reported breaches of cloud-stored images, especially among some of the earliest cloud camera implementations.
The use of or avoidance of voice assistants is also split by attitude, with usage rates being roughly twice as high among the “Innocent need not worry” versus the “Innocent should worry”. As with breached cameras, there have been mainstream reports about voice recordings or listening devices being compromised.
Usage rates of iPhones and Android smartphones is not markedly different between these groups, nor is the use of social networks Nextdoor or Facebook. However, iPad usage is higher among the “Innocent need not worry”.
Facebook Least Trusted
A bigger issue facing Facebook is that of trust, or more accurately, lack of trust. Americans trust Facebook least of all among Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. Within the last several years, everyday consumers have been alerted to a series of privacy breaches in news reports in mainstream news. Although tech-oriented users have been cognizant of the inherent threats to privacy from their online activities, these concerns have broadened into the general public. Just over one-fourth (27%) of online Americans distrust Facebook while 23% similarly distrust Google, saying they trust them “Not at all” or “To little extent”. And, only slightly more than one-third (36%) say they do trust Facebook, in strong contrast to the majority who report trust of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.
Cognitive Dissonance, Denial, or Cluelessness?
There are many in technology and marketing circles who dismiss privacy concerns, pointing out that although many people express concerns, they then paradoxically go ahead to use or buy that which they distrust, despite their awareness and fears. That display of cognitive dissonance is clearest among users of Facebook’s properties. Of those who use Facebook, Instagram or, WhatsApp, only 39% say they trust Facebook. That’s half the trust rate among Apple’s users, where over three-fourths (77%) express trust.
Distrust is also strong among Facebook’s users, with 20% saying they trust Facebook “Not at all” or “To little extent”. Google isn’t much better off, with nearly a quarter (23%) of their users expressing distrust of Google. Apple, on the other hand, has only 8% of its users expressing distrust.
Apple’s Head Start on Perception of Privacy
Within the last year, Apple has increased its marketing around privacy. Apple’s current customers are already more privacy-oriented than the average online American. A higher share describe themselves as being more careful about their privacy than most people, and noting that they’ve been taken advantage of often. This predisposes them to be more receptive to privacy as a reason to choose Apple’s products and services over others.
As a marketing issue, online privacy is likely to continue getting stronger and more widespread. Most likely the word privacy will be defined and redefined in many different ways by each entity, leading to further market confusion. Apple’s privacy-oriented and aware customers are likely to continue as such, solidifying their reliance on Apple. In contrast, non-Apple customers will be less and less likely to switch to Apple as they’re mollified by promises of privacy from Google, Facebook, and others. The perceptual gap around privacy issues will be further eroded by claims. Meanwhile, as adoption of voice assistant and smart home devices expands, we can expect continued reports of data breaches and privacy failures. Realistically, these privacy events are unlikely to discourage users from using their existing services to any large degree. Convenience, habit, denial, and acceptance (aka resignation) are strong forces among online Americans. In other words, we can expect more of the same.
We’re going to see a rising challenge to offer convenience while truly managing privacy. Makers of products with capabilities that everyday users may associate with privacy risks – such as those with integrated voice assistants or cloud cameras – will need to be aware of the market’s needs for privacy, and likely offer alternate versions without these capabilities. Or, makers of these products will need to offer settings that will assure privacy, such as ways for nontechnical users to confirm sensors such as microphones or cameras are inoperable. Even products that track personal information in ways less obvious to regular consumers – such as tracking multiple factors such as location, device ID (such as MAC address), viewing habits, or other behaviors – will need to address privacy beyond the usual license agreement. I expect we’ll see alternate “privacy” versions of smart home products from wireless speakers to TVs and thermostats that are designed to have limited or no tracking.
At the end of the day, privacy will continue as an important product feature, added to the list of speeds, feeds, and checklists that consumers will use as they choose what they buy or avoid.
About this TUPdate
The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from the most-recent wave of TUP (Technology User Profile), the 2018 edition which is TUP’s 36th continuous wave. This survey-based study details the use of technology products by a carefully-selected and weighted set of respondents drawn to represent online adults. This specific wave spanned the US, UK, Germany, India, and China. In the TUP survey, we identified the connected devices being actively used, from those acquired with home/personal funds to those that are owned by employers, schools, or others. From these, we selected adults who are using at least one home PC.
Current TUP subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.
Convenience is the surest bet to reach technology consumers. When it comes to voice assistants, it’s important that convenience be handy. It shouldn’t be surprising that consumers first choose what’s familiar and close to hand. More are actively speaking to devices they’ve already had before using smart speakers.
Among American adults, five times as many use a Smartphone than a smart speaker to access a voice assistant. This is based on results from the most recent wave of TUP (Technology User Profile). Nearly half, 46%, of online adults in the US used a Smartphone to access a voice assistant such as Apple Siri. One in five, 20%, used a Tablet. Smart speakers, such as an Amazon Echo or Dot were only being used by one in eleven, 9%, of online US adults.
Among those using a Smartphone to reach their voice assistant, the median household spending for technology devices and services for the full prior year of 2017 is $4,500. By comparison, those using a tablet to reach their voice assistant average $6,750, and those using a smart speaker average $6,560.
At first glance, it may seem compelling that smart speaker users are much bigger spenders. Their median spending for home technology devices and services is double the average online adult. However, tablets are more compelling. Those who use tablets to reach their voice assistants spend a bit more than smart speaker users, at $6,750. More importantly, they are more numerous. In fact, there are more than twice as many, with tablet voice assistant users making up 20% of online adults.
Looking at total spending, Smartphone voice assistant users are putting their money where their mouth is. Although their average spending on technology devices and services is lower than tablet or speaker voice assistant users, there are so many more of them their total spending is higher.
Consumers are still experimenting with voice assistants, regardless of device. Although smart speakers are getting a lot of attention, it’s worth keeping an eye, and ear, on tablets and smartphones. After all, money talks.
About this TUPdate
This TUPdate includes a complimentary brief summary of recent MetaFacts TUP (Technology User Profile) research results. These results are based on results of the MetaFacts Technology User Profile 2018 survey, its 36th consecutive wave. Similar results are available through TUP fielded in Europe and Asia. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.
Current TUP subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis.
This week, Google announced they’ll be pulling the plug on the consumer-facing Google+, although after unreported widening abandonment. Google’s social network rocket never quite left orbit and was already on its way down. Although the decision was partly portrayed as protecting user’s privacy, recently a substantial number of Google+ users had already abandoned the platform.
In the last year, a substantial number of Google+ users stopped returning. This is based on the results of our independent survey, TUP (Technology User Profile), conducted continuously since 1983. From mid-2014 through mid-2017, Google+ had continued its steady, but stagnant, usage patterns. During that time, the number of active US adult users hovered between 41.7 and 48.6 million. Even before Google announced the closure of Google+, we found in our most recent wave of TUP, fielded mid-year 2018, that the number of Google+ users had dropped nearly in half, to 25.2 million users.
The final Google+ hangers-on form a unique profile, especially for the sites they frequent. They are three times more likely than the average online adult to be active on MySpace, and twice as likely to be using Viber, Reddit, Imgur, or Tumblr.
Demographically, usage levels plummeted simultaneously for all age and gender groups. At one peak point in 2015, 43% of online males age 25 to 34 were using Google+. By 2018, that plummeted to 14%.
Remaining users are not from any particular gender or age group, as all have penetration rates in the teens.
Even though Google’s announcement hinted they may refocus Google+ on enterprise users, these are also few in number. In fact, a higher-than-average share of remaining Google+ users are unemployed or employed part-time.
Google’s sunsetting may discourage the remaining loyalists, affecting use of other Google products and services. For example, Google+ users are twice as likely as any other online American to be using Google Nexus Player, and Google Chromecast. And, in China and India, Google+ adult users have an above average share of using Google TV and Google Nexus Player. Furthermore, in India, Google+ users actively use an average of 1.64 Google devices, including Smartphones and Tablets.
If the transition is managed well, Google’s attempt to reverse the polarity of a negative to a positive may avoid inadvertently changing Google+ to Google minus.
This post includes a complimentary brief summary of recent MetaFacts TUP (Technology User Profile) research results. These results are based on results of the MetaFacts Technology User Profile survey, from TUP 2018, its 36th consecutive wave, as well as previous waves. Comparable results are available through TUP fielded in Europe and Asia. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.
There are multiple ways consumers are expressing this, from actively using ad blockers, to moving beyond “freemium” sites and content to those offering an ad-free experience with a paid subscription, or simply reducing their media consumption.
Ad blockers are being used by a substantial share of online adults in the US. Based on our 2017 wave of Technology User Profile throughout the US, 40% of Connected Adults are actively using an Ad Blocking app on at least one of their connected devices.
Ad blockers are being used across a range of user’s connected devices. The highest rate of ad blocking is on PCs, followed by Smartphones, and then Tablets.
The Ad Blocking rate is even higher among the most-active news readers. This rejection doesn’t bode well for ad-supported business models, such as that of many media outlets.
Digital consumers continue to value an ad-free experience, whether for news, music, or video content. Consumers enjoy convenience and continue to respond to offers marketed as free. Although these hopes and preferences may persist, what matters more than wishes are what consumers do. Action matters more than opinion, just as behavior carries more weight than intention or preference. Seeing that so many consumers, especially such highly-engaged ones, continue to take the extra step to actively block ads continues to send the messages to advertisers as well as news outlets.
Meanwhile, many media outlets have gotten the message and moved their ad-free experiences behind paywalls. Others encourage freemium customers to at least whitelist their publications. To the extent consumers lower their defenses, this may reduce the value consumers place on being ad-free. In turn, this may encourage more consumers to return to being active readers.
This post includes a complimentary brief summary of recent MetaFacts TUP (Technology User Profile) research results. These results are based on results of the MetaFacts Technology User Profile survey, from TUP 2017, its 35th consecutive wave, as well as previous waves. Comparable results are available through TUP fielded in Europe and Asia. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP, please contact MetaFacts.