Privacy for a Premium

Internet security research

The use of social media has become the norm — from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, to LinkedIn. The odds are, almost everyone you know is on some form of social media. In fact, nearly 3 in 4 adults are now subscribed to one platform or another in the U.S.

There has been a growing number of high-profile data breaches in the last few years as well as increased mistrust with how some of these companies handle user data. Still, despite our complicated perception of social media and privacy, the number of active users online continues to grow.

It begs the question: How worried is the average user about the privacy and security of the personal data they share online, and how far are they willing to go to protect it?

To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 social media users to understand:

  • How concerned people are with the safety of their personal information
  • How much money they’d be willing to pay to increase their privacy
  • Which platforms users trust the most as they are today.

Read on to see what we uncovered.

Committed to Privacy

Major brands and companies rely on social media as an advertising platform they can use to help build trust with their customers. More than any other marketing medium, social media offers brands the opportunity to present a more human side of themselves and attempt to establish a more authentic relationship between their product and potential consumers.

Perhaps ironically, while users may establish some level of trust with brands through social media, they don’t necessarily trust the social media platforms themselves. According to our survey, more than 2 in 5 users (46%) were either extremely or moderately concerned about the safety of the data they’ve shared via social media. While extreme concern was higher among older users than millennials, less than 6% of users from any age group expressed not being at all concerned about the security of their information on social media.

When asked which social media platforms they trusted the least, TikTok (38%), Facebook (36%), and Snapchat (26%) were voted as the least likely to keep users’ personal info safe. In contrast, those surveyed were most likely to trust LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Reddit with their data. As we found, 44% of users have used fake information to protect their personal data and privacy in the past.

Party (On)line

It may be difficult to identify which is the more decisive topic: social media or politics. In recent years, the two have been marred by controversy questioning the ethics and tactics political candidates and parties use to promote their campaigns online. While experts have suggested targeted political advertising should be suspended during election cycles, Facebook specifically maintains they aren’t meant to be the “truth police.”

When asked how concerned they were about the safety of their private data on social media, Independent voters (48%) were the most likely to express extreme or moderate concern, followed by Democrats (47%) and Republicans (41%).

Worth the Investment?

All of your favorite social media platforms may be free to use, but they’re still generating billions of dollars in revenue every year. Just because you don’t have to pay to use them, the social media market is a massive industry, and the amount of money advertisers spend to reach your feed helps keep the experience free for users and potential customers alike.

While a vast majority of users (71%) prefer a model where social media remains free but profits through targeted ads based on their personal information, another 29% disagreed. In fact, 60% of users were at least somewhat willing to pay to use social media if it meant the platforms wouldn’t collect, store, or sell their data to third parties – younger users were the most likely to say so, including 64% of Gen Xers and 60% of millennials.

So how much money would they be willing to give up to help keep their data safe? Averaging between $4.54 and $5.29, users were willing to pay the most per month to Facebook ($5.29), followed by Instagram ($5.18) and Twitter ($4.75).

Rating the Investment

Regardless of how worried you are about the safety of your information, there’s no denying that the major social media platforms are making money on your personal data. Facebook alone earned $40 billion in advertising revenue in 2017 and only provides users with limited controls in terms of the content they see or the way their data is used.

So, why aren’t more people willing to pay to keep their information safe? More than 2 in 5 baby boomers and millennials agreed they didn’t trust the social sites to keep their data private even if they paid, while 39% of Gen X users would rather not use the sites at all. Thirty-six percent of millennials, 32% of Gen X users, and 30% of baby boomers acknowledged they weren’t worried enough about their data to make it worth paying to protect.

High Rollers

In a world where you arguably can’t get something of value for free, it seems reasonable that social media platforms have to earn some profit. In 2018, Facebook earned nearly $5.8 billion a month in advertisement revenue across 2.8 billion active users. If users wanted to eliminate ads altogether, Facebook and Instagram would have to charge users $2.07 a month. Fortunately, those polled admitted they were willing to pay $5.24.

Based on the $234 million Twitter earns every month in ad revenue across its 145 million users, the $4.75 respondents told us they were willing to pay to keep their data safe was far beyond the $1.61 Twitter would need to charge to maintain the same earnings. While Reddit users were willing to pay a similar amount ($4.54), the social platform would only need to charge $.02 to maintain its average of $9.9 million in monthly ad revenue.

Peace of Mind

The internet can be a scary place, and more and more, it’s also the place where a vast majority of our personal data is stored. From the information we’re willing to post to social media to the more private data stored in our emails, shopping accounts, and other cloud services, many users aren’t entirely in control of protecting their own information. As we found, nearly half of social media users polled are extremely or moderately concerned about the safety of their personal data on social media, and some were even willing to pay money if their information wasn’t used against them in targeted advertisements.

At Pango, we know you should never have to compromise online security. Just because we live in a connected world doesn’t mean you’re powerless against protecting yourself and your data. With a Pango subscription, every element of your digital life is protected with our Hotspot Shield, 1Password, Robo Shield, and Identity Guard. We’ll do the heavy lifting so you don’t have to worry about where you’re browsing the web. Learn more by visiting us online at today.

Methodology and Limitations

Using Amazon MTurk, we surveyed 1,002 people who used social media for at least one hour a week about their social media trust concerns. Of respondents, 48.3% were female, and 51.2% were male. The remainder identified as nonbinary. Baby boomers accounted for 10.5% of respondents, while 27% were Generation X, and 58.5% were millennials. The remainder fell into Generation Z and Silent Generations. The sample sizes for these groups were not large enough to include in the breakdowns in this study. The average age of respondents was 37.64, with a standard deviation of 12.12.

When asked which sites people would pay for, respondents could choose any of the social media sites presented, as well as a write-in option, regardless of whether they were current users.

For measuring trust in sites and how much time they spent on each, respondents only answered for sites they used for at least one hour a week.

Sources for users and revenue are from the following sites:





For sites that reported quarterly ad revenue, that number was divided by 3 to determine monthly revenue.

For sites that annual estimates were used, those numbers were divided by 12 to determine an estimated monthly ad revenue.

There was an attention check in our survey to disqualify anyone who was not paying attention.

Monthly pay maximums and hours spent on social media are based on answers that fell within the 95th percentile, so outliers are excluded.

The survey is not weighted. This is based on self-reported information, which comes with limitations, such as exaggeration and under-estimation.

Fair Use Statement

Like this data and want to repost it for your readers for any noncommercial use? We don’t need an official friend request, just a link back to this page so that they can see our findings in their entirety.