Privacy Online: Get Over It

A recent story based on Ofcom research indicates that fewer people in the UK are concerned or worried about the Internet than you might expect, based on journalistic coverage, and that concern has abated somewhat over the years. Other research, such as the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS), supports this observation.

There are several reasons for this. One and I think the most important is that the Internet is an experience technology. As people get experience online, they become less concerned. Those who are most concerned about the privacy and other implications of the Internet, have never used it. And this is not to say that users have a blind level of trust – they do not. Very few people totally trust the Internet or any other source of information, and a certain level of skepticism is good. The other is the degree to which the press and many other pundits simply take the exceptional cases as typical. Most people, most of the time, are reasonably careful about what they post, and how they protect the security of their systems and the privacy of what they regard as truly personal information. That does not mean that everyone reads the privacy policy of every service provider, just as they often ignore the small print of insurance, bank, and credit card policies. They have a learned level of trust in particular providers.

When some providers have been too lax in protecting the privacy of consumer data, it is most often the users of the Internet who blow the whistle and generate media coverage. So the Internet has become one of the most important mechanisms to ensure that Internet companies are held accountable for their behavior. That is another reason why users are less worried than the admittedly entertaining and worrisome press coverage would have us believe.



Comments are most welcome