How private do you feel online? Thanks to our User Attitudes Towards Privacy Survey 2022, we can say the answer is likely “not that safe.” That’s just one of the insights we gleaned from it. Let’s dive in and see what the good online folks think of privacy issues, effects of breaches, and wrangling cookies.
A word on the research
Our survey’s sample size was 1925, divided into roughly equal representative pools of people from Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK, and the US. 49% identified as male, 51% as female. By age, 16-24-year-olds comprised the largest group (21%) while 65+ was the smallest (11%). Putting it all together, here’s what participants thought about their privacy.
Thus we learned that while 90% agree (or partially agree) that online privacy is important to them, 32% stated that quality of services is more important than privacy. And the younger the user, the more likely they are to choose quality above privacy. Let’s not be too hasty to judge, though: many of us Google or Facebook logins instead of signing up to websites the old-fashioned way.
Many internet users are still in the dark about their data
About 81% want to know more about how their data is used, and it’s not surprising. Only slightly over half of the respondents understand how their data is used online, with partial-agrees outnumbering the strong-agrees. With Google and Facebook practices obscured by reams of terms and conditions, and data brokers running rampant, our data has never been in more confusing hands.
Younger users are more aware of their rights
However when it comes to taking control of such data, less than half are aware of the right to be forgotten (the concept of having your private data removed from internet searches or directories). The gap between this knowledge and general privacy awareness increases with age. While all age cohorts had similar estimates of their privacy rights (around 70%), only 33% of 55-year-olds and older knew of the right to be forgotten. This knowledge was most withspread with 16-to-24-year-olds (52%), with the curve gently sloping downward from there.
What the respondents are aware of is that the internet isn’t safe. 70% claim to at least worry about online safety. Almost half say they feel safe online (mostly partly agrees here) while a third have already suffered in data breaches. That’s one in three people. Based on our data, the millennials have suffered the biggest losses.
Privacy tool use is increasing
Internet users are already working on making their online lives more private and safe. 68% manage their app permissions and 59% are selective about which cookies are allowed. A great first step – if your data never goes anywhere, you don’t have to worry about its use (and misuse).
Most popular services of privacy and security
Yet there’s space for improvement when it comes to corralling your data. As far as privacy-increasing tool usage goes, 63% of respondents employ at least an antivirus. But that’s the peak, with the rest of the tools being a lot less popular. Only 39% use an adblocker (maybe those desperate pleas to turn them off really work) and only 36% have a password manager.
A statistic that’s not very near-and-dear to our heart is VPN usage. One in five claimed they use a free VPN (which we don’t consider to be a safe choice) while only one in six opted for a paid one. The aforementioned lack of information about privacy and privacy options might explain why tool adoption numbers are so low when people are both feeling unsafe and experiencing data breaches.
But if we want to look into whether there’s a correlation between awareness, experience, and smart tool use, we must turn our gaze to country-specific data.
Attitudes towards privacy by country
First off, a bit of statistics about our countries: here’s how many of their users experienced data breaches in 2021 (and what part of total population that is):
Breached users 2021 (millions)
Part of population
Attitudes differ across countries
With that in mind, onto the observations:
- Germans stand out as being less worried about safety and using more privacy oriented services. In 2021, 1 in 8 Germans have been affected by a breach, significantly less than in other surveyed countries. The comparatively low number of breaches might be why they believe that they can be targeted by cybercriminals a lot less. On the other hand, Germans are already using privacy tools much more often than people in countries that report less safety and more breaches.
- American awareness of security and privacy issues ranks higher than the others. However, this may be something that’s born out of painful experiences: people in the US have to deal both with widespread breaches and completely legal things like ISPs selling their data.
- Australians are, more than others, scared of being targeted by cybercriminals. Maybe that’s why they’re less likely to trade privacy for increased quality of services – after all, breaches usually target businesses.
- UK citizens experience the second lowest rate of breaches, which may explain their lax attitudes towards privacy. They use tools and manage cookies less often than the rest of respondents, with only Germans being more laid back about their approach to app privacy settings.
- Canada doesn’t stand out much, except for being the least likely to believe that the internet is safer now than it was two years ago.
For those desiring a deeper delve, here’s User Attitudes Towards Privacy Survey 2022 in its full glory: