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Privacy Poll Shows People Concerned But Few Doing Anything About It

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

In the post-Snowden era, one would have expected that the online community is a lot more vigilant and must have taken steps to shield their internet activities from surveillance and snooping. However, if the results of a recent privacy poll conducted by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) are to be believed, a majority of the online users are still not doing anything special to protect their online activities even as the awareness about online privacy has increased drastically.

CIGI, the Canada based think-tank, published the results after conducting an extensive poll among the global online user community during the month of October and November. The poll, which was conducted by Ipsos on behalf of CIGI, targeted more than 23,000 people from 24 different countries. The list of countries polled included a mix of developed and developing nations including United States, Germany, China, Japan, Kenya, India, Brazil and Turkey so it can be safely said that the results of the poll truly reflect the opinion of the global internet community.

As per the information published by CIGI on its website, 60 percent of the total users polled said that they were aware about the sensational disclosures made by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and 64 percent acknowledged that they are now more concerned about online privacy that they were just a year ago. In addition, more than three-fourth of the participants revealed that they were worried about the possibility of hackers or criminals hacking into their accounts (including banking accounts) and stealing their private data. However, despite the increased awareness about security threats and online privacy, only 39 percent of the participants admitted to changing their account information (such as passwords) on a regular basis while just 43 percent acknowledged that they avoided visiting dangerous websites due to privacy concerns.

The poll also highlighted increased concern regarding the surveillance practices of governments and private organizations. As per the survey, 64% of respondents were concerned about the censorship done by their governments, 61% were worried that the government or police is secretly monitoring their internet activities, 74% of respondents were apprehensive about the data collection practices (and subsequent reselling of data for commercial gains) of private companies while 62% believed that intelligence agencies from other countries are monitoring their online sessions.

Given the high trust deficit that exists between the internet community and higher authorities, it was not surprising to see that most participants were wary of the government control over the internet. For instance, 34% people believed that their own government could block access to the internet, 43% of users thought that governments of other countries is capable of restricting their internet access while just 48% said that their government is doing a good job of keeping the internet safe and secure. In contrast, 37% users admitted to sharing personal information with private companies without any reservation while 41% believed that the chances of their personal data getting compromised was almost negligible.

The results of the poll clearly show that a majority of online users are still not concerned about the privacy threats that exist on the web. This lethargic attitude is one of the prime reasons why criminals are able to strike at will and steal private data from millions of people every year. So unless people abandon their lazy habits, online privacy is going to remain a distant dream.

January 20, 2015

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