Americans trust Google more than Apple to keep their data safe

A pungent new survey suggests that Apple may still have some work to do to gain trust. The survey also offers fascinating insights into whether people think the FBI should have an encryption backdoor.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on

Have you given up?

Do you feel that whatever you do, someone somewhere can sniff their way into your private information and use it for nefarious purposes? Or are you a repository of hope within the international despair?

I only ask because a new survey has descended upon me and rendered me rueful.

It aimed to ask 1,025 representative Americans -- who must have been more interesting than any number of Americans in the House of Representatives -- about security, encryption, and their own personal views and habits. 

The questions elicited stimulating answers. For example, when asked where they first learned about encryption, a hearty 17.7% said: "On TV." Were they all watching Mr. Robot?

Then again, they were a piffling crowd when compared to the 18% percent who said they haven't learned about encryption at all.

As with all humans, there were contradictions. 55.5% believed that their data was safe if it was encrypted in the cloud. Oddly, 65.2% agreed that hackers could access confidential data even if it's encrypted.

Perhaps, though, you'll be most moved by the answers to the question: "Which company do you most trust to encrypt your data?"

You might imagine that Apple, with its hearty insistence on privacy and encryption, would be the Miss World of this category.

Instead, it was Google. Followed by Apple? No, it was followed by Amazon, and then Apple. 

The numbers, because I know you like them, were 42.6% for Google, 38.3% for Amazon, and a mere 36.7% for Apple.

It's true that Apple's record on encryption hasn't exactly been perfect. Yet CEO Tim Cook has been sterling in his defense of Apple's encryptive penchant and made privacy a key selling point for the iPhone.

It must be a touch galling, therefore, that the greater populace believes that Google has greater privacy instincts than Apple -- the very Google whom Cook regularly excoriates for not having any privacy instincts at all.

This may be linked to these respondents' answer to another question -- as to which companies they believed use encryption at all. Here people claimed that Amazon is most likely to use encryption, followed by Google and Apple.

I should mention that this survey was performed on behalf of hardware security company nCipher. Its previous surveys have offered me a reason to wonder about my fellow Americans. The last of these mused that many IT professionals are deeply concerned about their connected toilets being hacked.

One more enticing snippet, though, emerged from this latest baring of the American soul. The question was this: "Should US law enforcement be able to break encryption to access data (also known as having 'backdoor' access) that may help them solve cases?"

Nearly 27% of these Americans were happy for the authorities to break encryption in all circumstances. Another 26% were happy to allow it only for criminal cases.

Never imagine that -- even if they support the same team, drink in the same bar and follow all the same reality TV stars on Instagram -- your fellow citizen necessarily thinks like you do.

Several of my British friends still won't talk to their parents after last week's Brexit-inspired election.

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