Online privacy is a hot-button issue in 2018. How have recent privacy scandals and online policy changes affected the way Americans view safety online? TheBestVPN surveyed 1,000 Americans to find out.
Online privacy has been a hot topic this year. With the news of companies like Cambridge Analytica surreptitiously mining data from 87 million Facebook profiles, it is understandable for Americans to feel concerned about their online safety. Since then, governments have made efforts to increase transparency between data companies and users. However, much remains shrouded in mystery on how our data is kept online.
Curious about the effects of massive data scandals like Cambridge Analytica, TheBestVPN surveyed 1,000 Americans about their attitudes toward online privacy in 2018. Not surprisingly, concerns are on the rise.
Americans don’t feel safe
The study reports that 93% of respondents feel equally concerned or more concerned about their privacy compared to one year ago. This is a staggering statistic, though not surprising. The more technology is integrated into our lives, the more information we share. The good thing about this anxiety is it will hopefully bring more awareness to how to protect one’s online data.
Hackers are the #1 concern
The study also found that Americans are most worried about hackers, with 51% of respondents citing this as their biggest concern. Twenty-six percent of respondents cited companies like Facebook collecting and sharing their personal data being their major worry. Most sites track user behavior in order to sell better targeted ads, though often these policies are vague and hard to opt out of.
Lastly, 23% respondents cited government surveillance as their main concern. It’s worth noting that the NSA can still legally access citizen e-mails and browsing histories without a warrant. This law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), was silently reauthorized by Congress this January. Even with nothing to hide, this is a troubling breach of privacy for American citizens.
A lack of understanding
Fifty-four percent of Americans in the study say they are not confident in their understanding of how companies collect and share their online information. This isn’t because they aren’t tech-savvy, either. Many major companies purposefully design opt-out options under layers of obscure settings so they are a hassle to find. They also use vague and confusing language when describing privacy preferences.
All of this purposefully makes it difficult for users to turn off data tracking features. The new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law was put into place to regulate the collection of user data, but negative wording and confusing page designs still trick users as companies attempt to work around the law.
One third of Americans are unprotected
Despite concerns, one-third of respondents report they haven’t taken any steps to protect their online privacy. Thankfully, there are plenty of easy ways to take better care of your online privacy right now. Some of these include using a secured VPN (virtual private network), only using sites that begin with “https://,” and taking the time to customize your social media privacy settings.
In 2018, it is vital to protect yourself from online hackers and data breachers. Prepare yourself now so you are not caught off guard in the future.
Infographic courtesy of thebestvpn.com
|John Mason is a cybersecurity analyst based in Tallinn, Estonia.|