Trust in Tech Takes a Hit as Public Links Innovation With Greed

Public trust in the technology industry is in decline while more people link innovation to excess, according to a survey of 27 countries published as policy makers and executives gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

When polled about the incentive for innovation, 30 percent said it’s intended to improve people’s lives, while 54 percent of respondents answered greed, according to the 2015 Trust Barometer, published by Edelman. It’s the first time in 15 years that the public-relations firm has recorded a decline in faith in technology, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Edelman said in a phone interview from New York.

“People are afraid of the pace of change,” Edelman said. “Whether it’s fracking or GM foods, or e-wallet, it’s scary -- because it’s causing job dislocation, it’s causing people to change their habits, and they don’t necessarily feel that they understand it.”

While technology companies still topped the ranking of most-trusted industries, their decline from last year is significant since tech drives innovation in other sectors, Edelman said. Banks and the media are the least trusted, according to the report.

Trust of CEOs is at 43 percent, a decline of 3 percentage points, staying above the 38 percent that have faith in government officials, according to the online survey. An academic or “industry expert” remains the most-trusted category, at 70 percent.

The firm polled thousands of individuals in countries ranging from China to the U.S., with household income in the top quartile for their age and country. The ages of those surveyed ranged from 25 to 64.