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Verge Tech Survey 2021

After a year of the pandemic, we asked Americans if their trust in big tech companies has changed — and if the biggest ones should be broken up

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Illustration by Grayson Blackmon / The Verge

In a year of isolation, fear, sickness, and death, the tech industry provided many of the ways people stayed connected. It also made Americans very aware of their reliance on the major tech companies. So have our attitudes toward them shifted?

Starting in 2017, The Verge has conducted periodic surveys gauging Americans’ attitudes toward the major tech industry; our most recent one was published in March 2020, just before life was upended by the novel coronavirus.

Though the pandemic has changed a lot of American life, our findings reveal that it mostly hasn’t changed our feelings about tech companies. There are some exceptions, though:

Previous tech surveys:

  • Thirteen percent of respondents who were familiar with the brand had unfavorable opinions of Amazon, compared to just 9 percent in 2020.
  • The estimation of Facebook and Twitter also fell among people familiar with them — with 34 percent saying they had unfavorable opinions of Facebook, compared to 29 percent in 2020, and 42 saying they had unfavorable opinions of Twitter, compared to 39 percent in 2020.
  • More people said Apple had a negative impact on society, but that was still just 9 percent of respondents familiar with the brand, compared to 5 percent in 2020. Facebook and Twitter were also more likely to be viewed as bad for society among those who recognized the brands.
  • Among people who don’t use Facebook, 43 percent of them are avoiding it because they don’t like how it does business — a jump from 27 percent in the last survey.

These are surprisingly large shifts in just a year. 2020 was a record profitable year for Amazon as more people relied on it during the pandemic.

We added a new company, TikTok, to our survey this year: 31 percent of people who recognized the brand say it has a negative impact on our society. Also, it’s the brand people most distrust when it comes to personal information, since 64 percent of respondents say they don’t trust it. Facebook and Instagram are the second and third least-trusted brands when it comes to personal information; in both cases, a majority of respondents indicated that they felt the brands were untrustworthy.

There is also an increased interest in breaking up Big Tech. This year, 61 percent of our respondents said that the government should split up tech companies if they get too big; last year, only 56 percent of people said that. Maybe the pandemic drove home how much we rely on these businesses — and how they can change our lives at the drop of a hat.

These are among the findings of the third Verge Tech Trust Survey. This survey was conducted in August with 1,200 people nationally representative of the US. The sample error is ± 3 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence.

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