Privacy Central

Privacy18 Apr 2018 12 mins read

Web searches to delete Facebook more than double in the US, UK, Australia and Canada following Cambridge Analytica breach

We tracked and analyzed Google web searches to delete Facebook in 255 locations across 17 countries over 12 months. Our study reveals huge spikes in the social network's biggest markets in the weeks following the privacy scandal.

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoHead of Research

Our new global study of web searches for “delete Facebook account” and closely-related terms in 255 locations across 17 countries confirms the severity and immediacy of the backlash against the social network.

This has been most strongly felt in the US, Canada, UK and Australia following the revelations about expansive data mining that were alleged to have influenced the US election and Brexit.

Key Findings

Country Google Search Volume Change Facebook Users Affected
Canada 175% 622,161
US 132% 70,632,350
New Zealand 103% 63,724
UK 101% 1,079,031
Australia 95% 311,127
Netherlands 61% 89,373
India 50% 562,455
Germany 47% 310,000
Romania 33% 122,241
Spain 24% 136,985
Philippines 22% 1,175,870
Vietnam 20% 427,446
France 15% 211,667
Italy 14% 214,134
Mexico 5% 789,880
Brazil 3% 443,117
Indonesia -8% 1,096,666

The above table shows the 10 countries with the most Facebook users whose data was shared without their consent, ordered by the increase in searches for “delete facebook account” queries in March 2018 compared to the average of the previous 12 months.

The full study includes our calculations for the increase in such searches in 255 locations across 17 countries, including comprehensive state- and city-level breakdowns for the United States.

A clear pattern emerged in our research: Facebook users in English-speaking countries are actively looking to quit the social network in great numbers while users from other affected nations seem far less concerned.

In the weeks since the scandal hit the headlines, web searches for “delete Facebook account” spiked most sharply in Canada (175%) and the US (132%). UK searches doubled (101%) with New Zealand (103%) and Australia not far behind (95%).

Despite being the second and third most-affected countries respectively, the number of people making this Google search in the Philippines increased by just 22% and actually decreased by 8% in Indonesia. Facebook users in Mexico (6%) and Brazil (3%) appeared barely concerned at all while searches in ninth most-impacted nation Vietnam rose by a mere 20%.

There was a mixed reaction among the European countries with the most impacted Facebook users. While it’s not unexpected that privacy-conscious Netherlands (61%) and Germany (47%) experienced the biggest increases in delete Facebook searches, it is surprising that the jump was not as high as in the English-speaking countries. To put that in perspective, there were almost the same number of people affected in Germany as in Australia, yet with only half the increase in searches.

At the the other end of the spectrum in Europe, Facebook users in Italy (14%) and France (15%) were indifferent despite over 200,000 people affected in each country.

Background

Eighty-seven million Facebook users around the world had their details shared with data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, by the social network’s own admission, with over 80% of them (70.6M people) in the US.

More than a million people in each of the UK, Indonesia and the Philippines were also affected.

Hundreds of thousands of Facebook users in each of Australia, Canada, Mexico, India, Brazil and Vietnam also had their personal information harvested.

We wanted to investigate how Facebook users in these countries immediately reacted to the negative headlines and how many had showed an interest in the relatively extreme action of deleting their Facebook account.

We also analyzed data for the five next most affected European nations, reportedly also confirmed by Facebook, who each had many tens of thousands of impacted users, and New Zealand.

Highlights

US

The spotlight on Facebook has understandably been strongest in the US with CEO Mark Zuckerberg even summoned to testify before Congress. The number of searches for “delete Facebook account” rocketed to 1.1M in March 2018 compared to the 474,000 monthly average of the 12 months prior.

Given the enormity and diversity of the US, it’s little surprise that drilling down city-by-city into the 132% increase reveals a very broad range of changes in search behavior. At one extreme, San Francisco, CA, with a 254% increase in searches, and at the other, El Paso (TX) with a comparatively meager 32% jump.

While Californian cities appear most frequently among the locations with the fiercest backlashes against Facebook, at the state-level as a whole it’s Oregon that saw the biggest relative spike in searches in March with a 223% increase. Washington (210%) and Vermont (187%) follow. California wasn’t far behind with a 165% increase and by far the biggest absolute number of US searches by state (155,040) in March.

Of the biggest 30 cities in the US, the smallest increases in searches were in Detroit, MI (46%), San Antonio, TX (54%) and Indianapolis, IN (62%). Even these lowest ranked US cities however had bigger increases than most non-English speaking locations.

At the state-level, Mississippi (50%) and Arkansas (68%) lagged far behind the national average.

State City Google Search Volume Change
California San Francisco 254%
Washington Seattle 234%
California San Jose 208%
Oregon Portland 203%
Texas Austin 160%
California San Diego 159%
California Los Angeles 146%
New York New York 134%
Colorado Denver 127%
Massachusetts Boston 126%
Washington D.C. Washington D.C. 116%
Illinois Chicago 110%
Arizona Phoenix 109%
Ohio Columbus 103%
Kentucky Louisville 101%
Pennsylvania Philadelphia 99%
Tennessee Nashville 93%
Maryland Baltimore 93%
Nevada Las Vegas 89%
Oklahoma Oklahoma City 88%

Top 20 US cities by increased searches. For breakdown of 61 US cities and 50 states, refer to the full data set.

Canada

The most intense interest in deleting Facebook in the world has been in Canada. Despite only a little over 620,000 Facebook users in Canada affected by the breach, representing 0.7% of the total 87 million victims, there were 175% more searches in March – around 126,000 – than the previous monthly average of just over 45,000.

There were three cities above the national average: Vancouver (250%), Toronto (190%) and Ottawa (182%). Searches more than doubled though in 13 of Canada’s 20 largest cities.

The Canadian cities with the least increase in searches were Laval (50%), Quebec City (54%) and Gatineau (61%).

State City Google Search Volume Change
Ontario Toronto 190%
Ontario Ottawa 182%
Alberta Calgary 151%
Ontario London 143%
Manitoba Winnipeg 134%
Ontario Mississauga 127%
Ontario Vaughan 125%
British Columbia Surrey 116%
Saskatchewan Saskatoon 113%
Ontario Hamilton 112%

Top 10 Canadian cities by increased searches. For breakdown of top 20 Canadian cities by population, refer to the full data set.

UK

In the UK, where more than 1.1M Facebook users were affected, the number of searches for “delete Facebook account” almost exactly doubled (101% increase) to over 239,000 in March from the previous monthly average of almost 119,000 searches.

The increases were concentrated in the more affluent south of the country with capital London home to the biggest spike in searches (139%), to 38,000 in March, compared to 16,000 monthly average in the 12 months prior. Brighton (129%) and Bristol (111%) were also above the national average.

Birmingham, the UK’s second-largest city, on the other hand, had one of the smallest increases in the country at 43%. The only smaller spikes among the 20 largest UK cities were Bradford (27%), Stoke-on-Trent (31%) and Nottingham (42%).

City Google Search Volume Change
London 139%
Brighton 129%
Bristol 111%
Edinburgh 98%
Sunderland 95%
Sheffield 93%
Cardiff 88%
Coventry 69%
Leicester 65%
Belfast 62%

Top 10 UK cities by increased searches. For breakdown of top 20 UK cities by population, refer to the full data set.

Australia

Due to its relatively small population, Australia was the least affected of the top 10 nations by the breach in absolute terms but still saw a 95% increase in searches for deleting Facebook. In March 2018, there were nearly 81,000 for “delete Facebook account”, up from a monthly average of just over 41,000 in the 12 months prior.

Second largest Australian city Melbourne was home to the biggest surge in searches (129%) with the larger Sydney not far behind with a 115% jump. Tiny capital city Canberra (112%) was the only other location above the national average.

The smallest spikes came in smaller cities that neighbor state capitals: Geelong (54%) in Victoria, Newcastle (55%) and Wollongong (60%), both in NSW.

City Google Search Volume Change
Melbourne 129%
Sydney 115%
Canberra 112%
Perth 77%
Brisbane 77%

Top 5 Australian cities by increased searches. For breakdown of top 10 Australian cities by population, refer to the full data set.

Methodology: Top10VPN.com tracked and analysed Google search queries related to “delete Facebook account” and related terms in 255 locations across 17 countries over a period of 12 months. This global study reveals the percentage change in these web searches in March 2018 compared to the average monthly searches in the 12 months prior. The regional breakdown features the top cities by population in each country.

Resources

Full data set covering 255 locations in 17 countries and breakdown by top cities by population. US data includes 61 cities along with state-level data for all 50 states.

Feel free to use the following graphic if you are writing about this study but please link back to this page so that Top10VPN.com is credited for our research.

Delete Facebook Account Web Searches Study