The privacy paradox refers to the seeming disconnect between peoples’ expressed concerns about their data and privacy online, and their actual behaviour of putting more of their data online.
That paradox can be seen in “Digital 2020,” a sweeping new global report from social media marketing agency We Are Social and Hootsuite.
Nearly 60% of the world is now online, spending an average of six hours and 43 minutes a day connected to the internet. Social media usage rose 9% in the last year, and now accounts for more than one-third of all time spent online. On the other hand, 64% of internet users now say they are worried about how companies use their data.
“There is this little doubt that many of us really are increasingly concerned about our digital privacy, but we’re also increasingly likely to adopt new devices or new technologies that are specifically designed to create and share more intimate data about our lives,” said Coby Shuman, managing director for We Are Social in Toronto.
For example, the number of homes worldwide that have adopted smart home devices has increased by one-third over the past year. Globally, smart home devices are now in the homes of 11% of internet users. In Canada it’s 15%.
“That tells us that millions of people are spending hundreds of dollars on these devices and paying subscriptions… [the devices] are actively listening to and tracking the things they do in the privacy of their own homes,” he said.
The disconnect between what people say and what they do has thrown a lot of marketers for a loop, he said, and the question is whether or not consumers will actually start doing more to protect their data, or just say they will.
The Digital 2020 report is compiled using data from a number of organizations, including GlobalWebIndex, Statista, GSMA Intelligence, App Annie, SimilarWeb and Locowise. It covers a wide range of digital behaviours and trends, from general usage to online shopping, mobile behaviours and internet speeds around the world.
The 247-page report illustrates that as much as the internet and social media have dominated marketing for most of the last 15 years, they both continue to grow as fundamental factors in people’s lives and consumer behaviour.
Canadians spend an average of five hours and 53 minutes online every day, and about one hour and 49 minutes on social media. In terms of privacy, Canadians are slightly more likely to say they are concerned—65% here compared with 64% globally. Another 45% are using ad blockers while 61% say they are worried about fake news.
The near totality of online connectivity and rising adoption of social media platforms are reminders of how and where marketers should be reaching their consumers. And yet many today still “hold back” from fully embracing social media marketing and adapting their strategies and tactics to reach consumers when they are online and on social, said Shuman.
“I think we are still seeing too many of our beloved brands In Canada using social media as a broadcasting platform,” he said. They are taking what they do for TV, cutting it down and sending that out through their social channels. “For a lot of marketers, success looks like reaching a lot of people and social is a great way to reach more people.”
Along with concerns about privacy, one of the other important issues to watch is the growing number of people actively trying to limit their time on social media. There’s more “social self-care” happening, said Shuman, but the platforms should be doing more to educate users about their behaviour.
“I think platforms should have responsibility to be more transparent on usage, giving users the opportunity to at least see that—in a more useful, simple way—and and letting them decide if they should change their behaviour or not.
“Hiding likes was a great first step but they have a responsibility to at least shine a light on what their usage looks like,” he said. “We’re living in a world of a mental health and anxiety epidemic, so I think platforms could be doing a lot more.”
Some of the topline data from Digital 2020
•Total online population: 4.54 billion people, an increase of 298 million from last year.
•Social media usage: 49% of the world (3.8 billion people), uses social media, up 9% from 2019.
•TikTok: Is now the 7th most popular platform, with 800 million monthly active users (although 500 million of them are in China).
•Mobile users: There are 5.19 billion unique mobile users globally.
•Mobile time spent: For the first time, more than half (50.1%) of all internet time is spent on mobile devices.
•Online shopping: 74% of internet users purchased a product online in the past month; 52% made a purchase from their phone.
•Online shopping spend: More than US$3 trillion was spent on online B2C purchases in 2019, a year-on-year increase of 9%.
•Streaming TV: Two-thirds of the world’s internet users 16 to 64 now watch TV streamed over the internet.