Hackers and government surveillance are making people abandon the internet, survey finds
May 17, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1294 articles)

Hackers and government surveillance are making people abandon the internet, survey finds

Almost half of all internet users are deliberately limiting their online activity due to concerns about cybersecurity, a US government survey has found.

41,000 households across America were involved in the wide-ranging survey, which was carried out in July 2015 by the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

45 per cent of those asked said their concerns about online privacy and security had made them refrain from certain online activities in the previous year, such as shopping, posting on social media or managing their finances.

The survey revealed that this lack of trust in cybersecurity measures may be taking its toll on the economy. 33 per cent of people worried about credit card fraud said they had avoided buying goods online in the previous year, while 35 per cent who cited identity theft as a concern had stopped using internet banking services, the survey revealed.

This mistrust has effects on the social side of the web, too. 19 per cent of respondents said they had avoided expressing controversial opinions on social media due to privacy concerns, a figure which rose to 26 per cent amongst people who had actually experienced a security breach.

Overall, identity theft was the biggest issue, with 63 per cent listing it as their greatest worry. 45 per cent were concered about banking fraud, while the next three biggest issues were online data collection, a loss of control over personal data, and surveillance by the government.

It’s unsurprising that internet users appear to have lost so much faith in the ability of internet providers and cybersecurity companies to keep them safe. The survey found that 19 per cent of respondents (representing almost 19 million households across the US), had been affected by an online security breach in the previous year.

In a blog post, NTIA analyst Rafi Goldberg said lawmakers urgently need to understand the scale of the public’s mistrust of internet security.

“In addition to being a problem of great concern to many Americans,” he wrote, “privacy and security issues may reduce economic activity and hamper the free exchange of ideas online.”

This isn’t the first study to look at the chilling effect that privacy worries can have on internet activity. A paper from Michigan’s Wayne State University revealed in March that knowledge of government surveillance causes people to self-censor and avoid voicing controversial opinions.

Source | Independent