It seems a little ironic that so many surveys have emerged about Internet users’ fears about their online privacy. Not only does Big Brother know who you are and what you’re doing, now he knows what you fear.
It so happens that today is Data Privacy Day and in celebration, Opera has conducted a survey of Internet users’ online privacy fears in the U.S., Russia, and Japan. The results are surprising: as Americans struggle to keep their jobs and their houses, more are afraid of having their Internet privacy violated (25%) than declaring bankruptcy (23%) or losing their jobs (22%).
While many users fear for their online privacy, people differ on who they think is watching them. U.S. respondents are most concerned about the government watching them (35%), while only 15% were concerned about their being collected by social networks. A full 16% said that they don’t worry about anyone accessing their information (I fall into this category—I’m just not interesting enough to warrant any snooping).
So is any one device safer than another? Respondents seem to think so. A full 54% of U.S. respondents believe a desktop PC offers the most privacy protection (“they’ll never find me here!”), while 3% said a mobile phone is safer, and 31% don’t believe either one is safer.
How are people protecting themselves? Almost 80% of American respondents said they use anti-virus solutions to protect their online privacy, while 61% said they use safe passwords and 47% said they delete their browsing history. Interestingly, more men delete their browsing history (52%) than women (42%).
“It is interesting to note the gap between what people say concerns them online and what they do in practice to protect themselves," said Opera’s chief development officer Christen Krogh in a prepared statement. "We often see that it is human nature to fear traffic accidents but not wear a seatbelt or helmet, or dread bankruptcy but continue spending, and it very much seems like it is the same for online behavior.”
When it comes to protecting users’ privacy, the majority of respondents in the U.S. and Russia believe that the responsibility lies with the users themselves, while Japanese respondents believe that it’s the responsibility of the Web companies.
While online privacy worries consistently ranked in the top four of respondents’ fears, however, it didn’t top anyone’s list. Fears of being hurt in a traffic accident took the top spot among Japanese and American respondents, while a full 40% of Russian respondents reported relationship problems as their biggest worry.
Another study of online privacy concerns published recently by Forrester Research found that privacy concerns are more common among older Internet users than younger users. In fact, privacy concerns were found to correspond directly to age group. For example, 30% of users aged 18-29 are worried about their privacy, compared to 33% of those aged 30-43, 39% of those aged 44-53, and 50% of those aged 54-64. The only age group where this is not the case is that of users aged 65 and older (43% of whom say they are concerned about their privacy), but that group is also least likely to use the Internet at all.
Image source: kensington.com