Internet users’ trust in the Internet has dropped significantly since 2019

Online users want better control over how their personal data is collected, used and sold.

An international survey reveals that Internet users’ trust in the Internet has dropped significantly since 2019. That is among the key findings of a 20-country Ipsos survey released by The NEW INSTITUTE in Hamburg, Germany.

Only six in ten (63%) Internet users on average across the 20 countries said they trust the Internet

That is down 11 points since a similar survey was conducted in 2019. The singular exception is Japan, which showed a 7 percentage-point increase in trust.  But Japan is the rare exception, as the findings reveal that Internet trust shrunk by double-digits in India (-10 points), Kenya (-11), Sweden (-10), Brazil (-18), Canada (-14), the United States (-12), and Poland (-26).

A complete list of countries surveyed and details about the survey methodology and those who were questioned is found below.

Privacy was a major concern for those surveyed. Seventy-nine percent express worry about their online privacy. Only 50% felt online security is adequate.

Many felt Internet governance is lacking. Slightly more than half of the respondents (57%) believe the Internet is effectively governed. But fewer than half in Great Britain (45%), the U.S. (45%), France (41%) and Israel (34%) feel that way.

In Germany, trust in the Internet fell to 61%, down 9 points since 2019

That is slightly below the international average of 63%, but higher than Canada (57%) and the U.S. (54%).

“The survey clearly shows distrust in the largest communication and information network humankind has ever created,” said Dr. Christian Kastrop, Program Chair, Socio-Economic Transformation, at THE NEW INSTITUTE. Dr. Kastrop is a former German Federal State Secretary for Digital Society and Consumer Policy. “Clearly, Internet users want concrete and effective policies that will empower and protect them.”

Amid privacy concerns and rapidly declining worldwide trust, Internet users are calling for new regulations to effectively strengthen online privacy. They also want to better control over how their personal data is collected and used.

Respondents indicated that the most effective policies to improve trust in the Internet should include: protection of user privacy (65%); protection of users’ personal data (65%); the establishment of standards detailing how Internet companies collect and make use of user data (62%); and the establishment of policies allowing users control their own data (62%).

“It’s all about empowering Internet users and listening to their concerns as the Internet revolution continues to evolve,” says Dr. Paul Twomey, Initiative Lead at The New Institute. “There is growing global desire by individuals to protect an individual’s the access to and use of their online personal data, which would not just for privacy but also to improve their direct benefits to individuals and expand positive societal outcomes.”

"There’s little doubt that we are witnessing a steady global erosion of user trust in the Internet. And that skepticism is being driven by concerns about data privacy and security”, said Dr. Fen Hampson, a Visiting Fellow at THE NEW INSTITUTE and a Chancellor’s Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. “The survey makes it abundantly clear that there is broad support for regulatory and technical innovations aimed at giving online citizens control over their own data. And it is also clear that is vital to restoring trust in the Internet.”

About the study 

The Ipsos poll was conducted by a research team led by Dr. Fen Osler Hampson (Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and The New Institute) and Sean Simpson (Ipsos in Toronto, Canada). The study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada (SSHRC).

The online survey was conducted by Ipsos between November 10 and 24, 2021. It involved 14,519 Internet users in 20 economies, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. Respondents in South Africa, Turkey, Israel, the US, and Canada were between 18-74 years of age. In Singapore and Indonesia, the respondents were aged between 21-74. In all other economies, the respondents were aged 16-74. Depending on the economy, 500 or 1,000 individuals were surveyed and were weighted to match the population in each economy surveyed. Quotas and weighting were used to ensure that the sample in each country reflected the population parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval. These are considered accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, for countries in which n = 1000 surveys were conducted, and n = +/- 5.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, for countries in which n = 500 surveys were conducted.