Tech is no longer the most trusted industry: Edelman survey

Heidi Chung

Technology has been thrust into the spotlight over the past couple of years as data privacy breaches rocked public trust. A new survey by global communications firm Edelman found that trust in tech has meaningfully declined from its former number one spot.

“For as long as we've been doing this survey, tech has been the number one industry,” Edelman CEO Richard Edelman told Yahoo Finance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And now, you start to see a diminution of trust on the basis of concerns about the new forms of technology-- artificial intelligence, for instance, is not a ‘proven to be good’ kind of idea. If it's monitoring people in the street, and do I have a choice in that? And you know, is my data actually my own and is it safe?”

[Watch Yahoo Finance’s free live coverage of the 50th annual World Economic Forum]

Edelman’s 20th annual trust barometer surveyed more than 34,000 adult respondents in 38 markets around the world. It found that 61% of participants said the pace of change in technology is too fast and government does not understand emerging technologies enough to regulate them efficiently. Trust in tech from 2019 to 2020 declined the most significantly in France, Canada, Italy, Russia, Singapore, the U.S. and Australia.

Dozens of cardboard cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are seen during an protest outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

“These are issues that technology companies have to welcome government in for. This is a key finding of the report, that people expect a partnership between government and business. Business is 50 points more trusted,” Edelman explained.

“However, government is twice as trusted about fixing issues like sustainability, and income inequality, and privacy. So it has to be like a seesaw. You have to have kids of equal weight to make it a fun exercise in the playground, so that's what business and government have to figure out.”

Even as government is expected to do the heavy lifting when it comes to regulation of key issues, survey respondents also expect the CEOs of corporations to take action.

“A stunning 92% of people told us, ‘I want CEOs to speak up on the issues of the day from LGBT, to privacy, to sustainability.’ And 75% said, ‘CEOs should lead their companies and not wait for government on these key issues,’ ” Edelman said.

Business is the catalyst for change, according to Edelman. “It can't do it on its own, but business definitely has a bit between its teeth, and is dragging the sled, and recognizing that, in the future, prosperity is only going to work if it works for all, and that there is going to have to be operational change, not cosmetic change.”

Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.

More from Heidi:

Find live stock market quotes and the latest business and finance news