Trust in Facebook as a company has been shaken as a result of controversial changes it has made to its privacy policy, and that loss of trust may lead up to one-quarter of its users to curtail their usage or drop Facebook entirely, according to a new poll by MarketingProfs.

Nearly 40% of consumers and 30% of marketers who are aware of the recent privacy changes say they "have lost trust in Facebook as a company" as a consequence of those changes, and 47% of marketers and 42% of consumers agree that they "have lost trust in Facebook's use information about me in a responsible way," the poll found.

Moreover, 28% of consumers and 22% of marketers who are aware of the changes expect to reduce their use of Facebook as a result of those changes, according to the MarketingProfs poll.

"Facebook's recent decision to change its privacy policy has rocked the trust of both consumers and marketers who have used the social network platform," said MarketingProfs President Roy Young. "While both groups are in the process of deciding what, if any, changes they will make in their use of Facebook, continued privacy concerns may threaten Facebook's long-term growth."

More than 8 out of 10 of professional marketers—83%, compared with 63% of consumers—were aware of the recent, highly publicized changes to Facebook's privacy policy, the poll found.

And among consumers and marketers alike, 70% expressed concern over the impact that Facebook's privacy policy changes might have on their own use, with nearly one-third of marketers and one-quarter of consumers saying they are "very concerned," according to the poll.

"Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his op-ed in The Washington Post and appearances on CNN is talking about how new settings will fix the privacy policy problem," says Young. "But our poll indicates that it's going to take effort to win back the trust of consumers and marketers. They're going to want to see real change and more privacy protection."

Survey Highlights

  • Most consumers and marketers with Facebook profiles are aware of Facebook's recent change in privacy policy. Marketers, however, are more aware than consumers: 83% vs. 63%.
  • Of those who are aware of the privacy policy changes, at least 7 in 10 consumers and marketers alike express concern:

    a. Among consumers aware of the changes, one-fourth (24%) report they are "very concerned" and an additional 45% report they are "somewhat concerned."

    b. Marketers aware of the changes are slightly more concerned than consumers, on average: 3 in 10 (29%) report they are "very concerned" and 4 in 10 (41%) are "somewhat concerned."
  • Trust in Facebook has been shaken both among consumers and among marketers as a result of the policy changes:

    a. Among those aware of the privacy changes, more than one-third of consumers (36%) and nearly one-third marketers (30%) agree that they "have lost trust in Facebook as a company."

    b. And consumers and marketers aware of the changes are even more likely to agree that they "have lost trust in Facebook's use of their information" (42% of consumers and 47% of marketers).
  • Some 28% of consumers and 22% of marketers who are aware of the privacy changes agreed that they "will reduce their use of Facebook as a result of the changes in privacy policy."
  • When all respondents (not just those aware of the policy change) were asked about any expected change in their use of Facebook over the next three months, their responses indicate that business and personal communications use of Facebook will continue to increase*: Consumers and marketers are significantly more likely to report that they expect their use of Facebook to increase (24%) rather than decrease (11%) over the next three months.

    *Although these responses appear to indicate growth in Facebook use regardless of the change in policy, we don't have a comparable measure of anticipated growth before the privacy-policy changes were announced; accordingly, the post-policy level of anticipated growth might actually be a decline from pre-policy-change levels.

About the study: This MarketingProfs survey looks both at consumers who have adopted the social network platform for personal interaction and at marketers who use the social network to enhance marketing communications programs for companies worldwide. MarketingProfs surveyed a sample of its membership of professional marketers and a consumer panel representing the general population with Facebook profiles. The survey was conducted from May 18 to May 21 via the Web.

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Trust in Facebook Tanking After Privacy Changes

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