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We might worry about online privacy, but we’re doing nothing about it

Online security

Nur Bremmen: Staff reporter
Nur is an enigma with a passion for creating words. He recently entered a love affair with technology and chorizo sausages. He travels a lot -- you... More

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When someone mentions online privacy we always get a little bit worried. We talk about how important it is to keep our private details secure, we might even bring up someone we know whose online banking got hacked. But when it comes to actually protecting ourselves online we’re not doing so great.

According to online research company eMarketer, we might set out trying to protect our digital identities with the best of intentions but often fail to take the right practical steps.

A large portion of this is down to a lack of digital know-how. In a Pew survey from earlier this year that focused on search engine usage, just 38% of online adults said they were “aware of ways to limit how much personal information websites can collect about them.” Things aren’t much better among people with tertiary education. Fewer than half (44%) of university graduates claimed to have such knowledge.

Know-how does however seem to result in taking increased steps to protect online privacy. According to eMarketer people who claimed to know how to keep personal information away from the websites they use, large majorities in Pew’s polling said they were taking several steps along those lines.

emarketer

Even people who are savvy about their privacy however are willing to compromise a little for the services offered by some companies.

“When you ask people, ‘Are you comfortable being tracked,’ they’ll say no,” said John Montgomery, chief operating officer of media investment company GroupM. “Yet when they sign in to Google or Apple — and Apple has a 23-page privacy or conditions policy when you sign in to iTunes — a tiny percentage of people decide to opt out. And the reason why is because if you opt out, you can’t get the service.”

A recent study by Harris Interactive meanwhile found that we may not even be worrying as much as we should be. Nearly all the respondents said they worried about digital privacy at least sometimes. Fewer than half said they did so “frequently” or “always” said eMarketer.