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New Survey Finds Majority of US Adults Don’t Realize that Facebook Owns Instagram and WhatsApp

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One of the key counters to the ongoing concerns around Facebook’s data collections processes, and the misuse of that information, has been that Facebook has been largely able to avoid scrutiny of its broader data collection processes on its other platforms – notably WhatsApp and Instagram – because people simply don’t realize that Facebook also owns them, and is getting user data from these apps also.
But is that true? Do people not realize that Facebook is collecting your personal information across four (including Messenger) of the most used social and messaging apps in the world?

Evidently, they don’t – according to a new Pew Research study, which incorporates a survey of 4,272 American adults, conducted in June 2019, 71% of people are not aware that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp specifically.

As you can see here, only 29% of respondents correctly identified Facebook’s apps.   
As explained by Pew:
“Americans’ knowledge of the business side of social media companies is relatively low. Just 29% of Americans correctly named WhatsApp and Instagram as two companies owned by Facebook. And when presented with a photo of Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, only 15% of adults correctly identified him.”
That seems very low – and the fact that this incorporates more than 4,000 responses would suggest that it is largely indicative. That seems like an issue for broader digital content and information understanding.
The finding is just one element of Pew’s larger report, which, as you can see above, also sought to get a better understanding of what people know about various online security elements.
Among the other key points of note:
Only a quarter of Americans (24%) realize that private browsing only hides your browser history from other users of that specific device
59% of respondents indicated that they know that advertising is the largest source of revenue for most social media sites – meaning 40% don’t understand the same
Only 28% of respondents were able to correctly identify an example of two-factor authentication
The results underline the growing need for digital literacy education – with online connectivity evolving so fast, it’s become increasingly difficult for users to keep up with changing processes and systems, which could, in part, lead to them sharing too much personal information, sharing fake reports, being duped by scams or having their identity stolen by various other nefarious means.  
Pew’s research did also find that younger users are, logically, more tech-savvy than older respondents. But even those results aren’t universal.

The findings show that more education is needed, that users need to have a better understanding of what they’re signing up for online, and that more checks need to be put in place to protect vulnerable, impressionable people from slipping up.
That’s difficult to do, of course, it’s hard to initiate training on the scale required to address these needs, but more does need to be done to help people understand the various elements – along with the sharing of fake news and election scams, which can influence political shifts.
How this can be done, no one really knows, and various social platforms have sought to provide digital literacy education sessions and resources in the past. But its clear that consumers need to be better informed about the more technical aspects of their digital presence – because it’s only going to become more important over time.  
Andrew Hutchinson

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