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Survey: Americans Still Trust Government More Than Tech Companies

Survey Respondents Trusted Apple Most and Twitter Least

By Published on . 1

Given revelations of widespread clandestined data collection by the National Security Agency, you'd think the U.S. government would have a PR problem. But that's nothing compared to the tech companies that provided data to the NSA, according to a new study of smart phone users in the U.S.

uSamp, a company that conducts surveys via mobile phones asked 850 people in July who they trust more with their personal data, the U.S. government or leading tech companies. The result: Uncle Sam performed far better than Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Twitter.

"Largely we think that the government has the most brand trust," uSamp's VP-product innovation Justin Wheeler said. "People just weren't overly concerned with government overreach."

When asked which of six organizations -- Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and the U.S. government -- they trust most with their personal data, a higher percentage of respondents (29%) said the government than Google (16%), Facebook (10%), Microsoft (9%) and Twitter (4%).

One big exception is Apple, which was trusted more (32%) than the U.S. government. Just less than half of the survey respondents (45%) had iPhones, so they are inherently iPhone fans, but Mr. Wheeler said, "but even those who have Samsung phones trust Apple."

Many of these companies have been compelled by law to comply with NSA data requests. All of the companies mentioned in the study sent a letter earlier this summer addressed to President Obama and other high-ranking government officials asking for more transparency about data requests they receive from the government. Twitter, which did not return a request for comment, released its bi-annual transparency report earlier this summer.

USamp conducted the survey in response to stories about the N.S.A.'s domestic surveillance capabilities. The company has 380,000 survey respondents who have opted-in to having their smartphone activity tracked via a uSamp app. The 850 people surveyed were pulled from that pool of 380,000 app owners and answered questions on their smartphones.

There is a built-in bias at play. All of the users surveyed had downloaded uSamp's mobile app, which itself collects data and allows users to earn deals by answering surveys. But you'd think that would indicated a higher degree of comfort with tech company data collection than the general population.

The company also asked if consumers were concerned about mobile apps collecting personal data. A majority (53%) said they were neutral or not at all concerned about apps accessing their personal information. Less than a third (30%) said they were "slightly concerned" and 17% said they were "very concerned."

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