Concerns over online security and privacy are deterring US internet users from shopping online and even posting on social media, a report by a US Department of Commerce agency shows. The findings of the survey point to wider implications, such as a decrease in economic activity and the hampering of the free exchange of opinions and ideas online.
The study, conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) asked 41,000 households with at least one active internet user about their online activity in the past year. The findings showed that almost half of US households had felt “deterred” from using internet banking, shopping online or posting on social media. Specifically, 45 percent of them said they had been deterred from at least one of the activities mentioned in the survey, and 30 percent had refrained from at least two.
Respondents, who were allowed to give multiple answers, indicated they were mostly concerned about identity theft online (63 percent). They also pointed to banking and credit card fraud (45 percent), data collection conducted by online services (23 percent), inability to control personal data (22 percent), collection of data by government agencies (18 percent) and threats to their personal safety (13 percent).
The survey also revealed that 19 percent of American households had been affected by a security breach in the past year. According to the NTIA, this amounted to 19 million households. Understandably, those households that had already been affected by one online security breach were more likely to fear such attacks. Also, the study showed that houses with multiple internet-connected devices were more likely to become victims of security breaches while households with only one internet connection were less vulnerable. The NTIA report is based on data collected by the US Census Bureau in 2015.
Privacy and security concerns have already changed the way Americans behave online, with the effects being dubbed “chilling” by the US agency. Specifically, the wider implications of mistrust online can be a hampering of online economic activities and a decrease in the frequency of opinion exchanges online.
In light of the findings, the NTIA said policymakers needed to acquire a better understanding of the phenomenon. In addition, the agency called for increased security and better encryption to protect internet users.
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