It seems like everyone is a little more on edge about data breaches and online security these days, and understandably so, considering certain incidents in the past year. It seems that these fears are even stronger than we may realize, though.
Online behavior hampered by privacy concerns
A recent survey from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found out just how much these fears are affecting our behavior. According to the report, which polled around 41,000 U.S. households, 45 percent of respondents said that privacy and security concerns have prevented them from several online activities, such as making purchases or using social media. The report also found that 30 percent stopped engaging in at least two of these activities.
The NTIA said that one-fifth of the participants said they were the victims of some kind of negative experience related to security and privacy, like a data breach or identity theft, and that incident has impacted their online behavior.
What’s particularly worrying the households, as indicated in the report, is identity theft, with 63 percent reporting that as their top concern. Another 45 percent worry primarily about credit card or banking fraud. These concerns were even bigger in households that had been previously affected by a breach, according to the NTIA.
The other categories of concern were less prevalent, including data collection by online services or the government, loss of control over personal data and threats to personal safety.
With these results, the NTIA said it will continue researching how privacy concerns influence online behavior and possibly suggest and support policies that could help placate these fears. Some of these ideas include better data encryption or baseline privacy protections to serve all internet users.
“NTIA’s initial analysis only scratches the surface of this important area, but it is clear that policymakers need to develop a better understanding of mistrust in the privacy and security of the internet and the resulting chilling effects,” the NTIA explained in its report, pointing out the potential implications of this trend on the economy and public discourse.
Your concerns shouldn’t stop your Internet usage
Though incidents like identity theft and data breaches are stressful, prevention doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding the internet. There are plenty of ways that you can continue benefiting from the conveniences and entertainment of the internet while still minimizing your risk.
One major internet concern is malware. To avoid downloading these viruses onto your devices, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you use updated security software and firewalls, and avoid clicking on links sent to you via email.
More generally, make sure you’re securing your accounts with regularly updated and strong passwords that use a combination of letters, symbols and numbers. You can also secure information on your social media profiles by adjusting your settings and limiting how much you share.
Another way you can be more proactive about your personal security is by investing in a service like Identity Guard, which can monitor your credit files and alert you to certain activity that may indicate fraud. This can be an essential part of any security plan, helping you keep an eye on certain information and prompting you to take action if necessary.