At Davos, Big Tech Is Waiting for Its Grace Period to Run Out
There’s a trust crisis afoot.
Earlier this week, Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report suggested that trust is collapsing in America. In a survey of 33,000 people across more than 28 countries, merely a third of Americans responded that they trust the government, a 14 percentage point deterioration from last year. Fewer than half of us trust the media. Even our confidence in business, which has for years remained strong, was shaken this year, falling 10 points; just 48 percent of respondents trust enterprises to “do what is right.” In the 18 times that Edelman has administered this survey, it has never recorded such dramatic plummets across a single country.
But as Americans’ trust in nearly every institution disperses, one industry seems insulated: Tech. That’s right, Americans still trust tech companies. Specifically, 75 percent of those surveyed said they trusted the tech industry to “do what is right, ” a percentage that has remained nearly unchanged for five years. According to the poll, tech is more trusted industry in America.
That’s surprising after a year differentiated by scandals and concern over tech corporations accumulation of power. The question of whether tech corporations could retain their privileged stance echoed through the World Economic Forum, in Davos Switzerland this week. Speaking on a panel entitled “In Tech We Trust, ” Alphabet chief financial officer Ruth Porat advanced a hypothesi. Trust in these companies is strong, she posited, “because technology continues to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.”
She’s right, of course. It’s the justification the tech industry always use for its existence and outsized influence. The notion that tech is insulated from negative popular opinion because its inventions are so astounding has been the prevailing corporate sentiment since before Google was a twinkle in its founders’ eyes.